The future of cannabis medicine in Australia

canadicannabmedCannabis legalisation is inevitable. Canada is about to legislate for recreational cannabis and so is California. Colorado has already legalised, and the sky has not fallen down. Crime rates have not gone up, people are not driving cars into trees, nor did anyone expect this, apart from a few die-hard fanatics. We have reached the tipping point.

Meanwhile, Australian governments have made no preparations for a legalised market and have developed no infrastructure for it. Instead, they are striving to give the industry to their discredited backers in Big Pharma and preparing to crack down on the illicit compassionate movement.

For the neo-Liberal ascendancy, regulation means privatisation, which means restricting the market via over-regulation and more reefer madness.

Both Queensland and Victoria have announced they will increase penalties for cannabis and Victoria plans to join Queensland in banning all information about growing cannabis and making cannabis medicines. They admit they can not arrest their way out of the problem, but they keep on trying.

The spread of cannabis medicine will be driven by the internet, which reports the developments in countries that have legalised medical cannabis, and by demographics. The Baby-Boomers were the first cannabis adaptors, and as  they age and face the diseases of mortality, they are more prepared to take up cannabis medicines.

Cannabis medicine will remain an illicit industry for a short while. There will be other Tony Bowers, but they will not be able arrest their way out of their predicament.

The Age of cannabis medicine is dawning.

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A friend, who is a law lecturer, wrote to me asking where he could obtain medical cannabis. His partner’s lung cancer was getting worse: “She starts chemo today after six weeks on a drug called Getfitinib. Not very optimistic… “

As a journalist who has followed the medical cannabis story over many years, I have reported on lives transformed using simple herbal extracts from a plant vilified by police and politicians as a dangerous drug. So although it was breaking the law, I made inquiries. Cannabis has a well-known record in treating nausea and maintaining appetite during chemotherapy. Recently the US National Cancer Institute rated cannabis as the best treatment available for nausea suppression and appetite stimulation in chemotherapy.

A few weeks later my friend sent me a photo of a jar containing a green herbal substance in a similar coloured liquid.

Recently I checked to see how his partner’s illness was progressing. He reported the cannabis was helping greatly, allowing his partner to deal with the chemo-induced nausea far better and her tumour was reducing. Their crisis was far from over and she was due to start a second cycle of chemotherapy shortly. He informed me he had started making his own tincture.

Although the Queensland government claims to have legalised medical cannabis, only one person in Queensland has legal access to cannabis! However, the black market in medical cannabis is thriving. My friend informed me that he received contacts for over a dozen illegal medical cannabis providers.

When he spoke in West End, Dana Larsen rthat the triumph of cannabis regulation in Canada was a testament to the civil liberty campaign the Canadians engaged in. He praised Marc Emery, who opened a shop called HEMP BC, which sold bongs and seeds. Although Marc Emery eventually served four-and-a-half years in a US prison, his example was emulated by others, creating a movement that combined business, civil disobedience and activism together into a very effective and powerful combination.

Much the same has happened in Australia with the medicinal cannabis movement. A decade ago, an unassuming Aboriginal man named Tony Bower started making a cannabis tincture, called Mullaways medicinal cannabis tincture for sufferers of childhood epilepsy. The New South Wales police arrested him, stole his patients’ medicine, and put him in prison.

His patients made his case a nation-wide cause. The parents of profoundly suffering children told of their gratitude to him and defended the miraculous relief afforded by his medicine. Many individuals were inspired to emulate him.

The recreational cannabis black market is Australia’s most valuable agricultural crop with tens-of-thousands of growers, with a street-value of several billion dollars. This large pre-existing underground industry provided the expertise and entrepreneurial drive that an agile, innovative and illicit industry needed.

Thanks to their efforts, knowledge of the benefit of medical cannabis is so wide-spread that even law lecturers are turning to black market cannabis and are learning to make their own cannabis medicines! Very few people would be shocked by my friend’s actions: Would any compassionate person watch their partner die and not do everything in their power to help?

Yet this is precisely what Australian politicians, police and health authorities demand. These compassion-devoid monsters have threatened mothers with having their children removed from their care for using a medicine that has had a miraculous and transformative effect on their sick children! But even lecturers in law will not follow such unjust and immoral laws.

The privatisation of medical cannabis

Lester Grinspoon predicted that cannabis would be the wonder drug of the 21st century. As our knowledge of the endocannabionoid system grows, the accuracy of his  prediction  underlies the politics of cannabis.

While the corporate media give the impression that cannabis medicine is being legalised, the truth is that cannabis medicine is being privatised.

The clinical trials announced by the New South Wales Minister for Medical Research, Prue Goward, will be run jointly with the British pharmaceutical company GW Pharmaceuticals and will test the company’s genetically-modified cannabis. They are funded by a $3.5 million dollar grant from the New South Wales government. The spin put on this large gift of money to GW  Pharmaceuticals by Minister Goward was that ‘street marijuana’ had ‘too many poisons in it.’ Politicians like Ms Goward are helping pharmaceutical companies, while sprouting reefer madness. Their rhetoric can not change the testimony of tens-of-thousands of Australians that simple home-made cannabis medications are more effective than anything the pharmaceutical companies can provide. On the medical battlefield, cannabis medicines are slaying the monsters of Big Parma like a mutant tumour.

While Governments are sending us down the corporatized Big Pharma/Big Green ‘clinical trial’ road of medical cannabis, we need to learn from Australia’s medical cannabis consumers what medicines they are taking and how successful these are. The best science in the area is being conducted by the Australian Medical Cannabis Observatory Initiative, who are  working on a survey of the medicines that Australia’s medical cannabis community are currently using.

Spokesperson Dr. David Caldicott says they are seeking open science, not private science. As part of documenting Australian cannabis medicines, they offer to chemically analyse the underground medical cannabis products, assisted by a team of chemists from the ANU.

In contrast to the clinical trials that Australian governments are considering, which will involve genetically-modified corporate cannabis and will have little benefit for the overwhelming majority of medical cannabis consumers, the citizen-science  approach of the Australian Medical Cannabis Observatory will examine the actual products Australia’s underground medical cannabis community and record their treatments and their efficacy.

 

 

 

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Marihuana Weirdo Remembrance Day

Marihuana Weirdo Remembrance Day

The 10th August 2013 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Brisbane’s first marijuana arrest, the marihuana weirdo raid, which was announced in a lurid story, “Marihuana seized by police in swoop on weirdos”, which was the front page story on 11th August 1963 for Brisbane’s Sunday Truth.

The marihuana weirdo raid marked the beginning of fifty years of marihuana persecutions, police corruption and the misuse of the drug laws. It is something to condemn but also to acknowledge and commemorate.

The back story to the Marihuana weirdo raid is examined by Steven Bishop in his book The most dangerous detective. What follows is largely excerpted from this book, which I recommend as a fascinating history of Queensland’s Rat Pack, and Queensland very own killer cop.

– Dr John Jiggens.

 

A lie called the Truth

In August 1963, the corrupt practices of Queensland detective and future Rat Pack leader, Glen Patrick Hallahan, had drawn the attention of the Appeal Court. An appeal by Garry Campbell, one of Hallahan’s victims, was due to come before three of the state’s most senior judges. Hallahan’s method in obtaining convictions was to threaten those he arrested that he would load them up with far more serious offences unless they pleaded guilty. If they pleaded guilty, he promised to go easy, and tell the judge they helped him in his investigations. Hallahan invariably promised he would put in a good word for them with the judge and they would pay only a small fine. Campbell’s appeal was based on the claim that Hallahan had blackmailed and bullied him into pleading guilty.

Hallahan wanted a major advertisement for himself before the appeal court sat in judgement on him, and he contrived with the Sunday Truth’s crime reporter, Ron Richards for a story of a raid on a gay party where it was expected that one of Brisbane’s top television personalities would be attending: this would become the marihuana weirdo raid.
The raid took place at midnight on a Friday night, which meant that no one else would be able to beat Truth to the story. As Saturday August 10 approached, Ron Richards and a photographer waited outside a Herston address.

Veteran journalist Steve Bishop described the resulting marihuana weirdo raid story as “a Hallahan extravaganza across the whole of the front page and page 3… the front page carried a photo of a besuited Hallahan, wearing a thick sweater under his jacket to keep out the cold, with “a firm grip on a male strip tease dancer being bundled from a weirdos’ party at Herston. The dancer appeared to be naked apart from a tiny towel that might have been the final part of his act. The headlines were: Brisbane rocked by vice exposure; marijuana seized in swoop by police on weirdos; television personality questioned.”

The Truth version of the marihuana weirdo raid was, “Right on midnight police rushed in to a unit at Herston where they found a near naked man entertaining the “potted” guests with a male strip-tease.” What was left unsaid in the Truth report was that the raid was a set-up from the start, staged by Hallahan and his friends in the CIB for the benefit of beat-up expert Ron Richards to whip into Truth’s fantastic marihuana weirdo concoction. Hallahan’s friend Billy Phillips organised the party; Hallahan organised the raid and probably the marihuana. Ron Richards did the rest.

There is a quote famously attributed to Rupert Murdoch by WA Premier Charles Court. Reputedly, Murdoch told Court, “You can have a headline a day, or a bucket of shit!” The marihuana weirdo story was Hallahan’s headline. By pulling some poor soul from a Herston party, Ron Richards contrived to transform Glen Patrick Hallahan into a detective hero, saving Brisbane from the scourge of drugs and vice.

The whole of page 3 was dedicated to the story, with four more photos of police leading “weirdos” away. According to the Truth, “Some of the men called each other by women’s names like Rosa, Gypsy, Molly and Roma… Police say the seizure of the marihuana at the Herston party is the first breakthrough in proving their belief that sex drugs are being used on a wide scale at Brisbane vice parties.”

The biggest photo featured another close friend of Hallahan and Richards, Detective Don ‘Shady’ Lane, future corrupt Bjelke-Petersen minister and jailbird. Hallahan also brought along in his raiding party his accomplice in the Sundown Murders frame-up, Norm Bauer, head of the CIB, who would succeed Bischof as police commissioner. The photos of the marihuana weirdo raiders portray a glittering parade of future stars; a cabinet minister, a police commissioner, and a chief investigator for Suncorp Insurance.

Next Friday, Hallahan was in court as the three senior judges heard the appeal from Gary Campbell. Campbell’s lawyer argued that Hallahan had blackmailed Campbell into pleading guilty. The judges reserved their verdicts to a later date, which meant there was time for one more pro-Hallahan beat-up in the Sunday Truth before the verdict was delivered in a page 5 story called: Dramatic sequel to city sex raid: Drug ring forced into “smoke”.

As Ron Richards furiously whipped the ingredients together, ace detective, Glen Hallahan, was now “smashing the dope-running gangs” through his undercover investigations into the drug trade. The story began: “Australia’s top gangland drug traffickers have gone into hiding following weeks of undercover investigation by Brisbane and Sydney detectives. The first breakthrough in smashing the dope-running gangs follows directly on the dramatic police raids on a marihuana party in the Brisbane suburb of Herston on August 10… Last week one of the guests at the Herston party was dramatically arrested at Eagle Farm airport by Detectives G P Hallahan and R Price as he was about to leave for Melbourne. He was fined 100 pounds after he told stipendiary magistrate Mr Baker that he had given Detective Hallahan valuable information on the source of the sex drug in Sydney.”

Like most of the Truth’s marihuana weirdo make-believe, this was thousands of light-years from the truth. Hallahan, the great anti-marihuana crusader, was one of Brisbane’s few potheads in 1963. His then confidente and lover, Shirley Brifman, recalled how Glen ‘hit the pot’ in this period. Far from smashing dope-running gangs, Hallahan would move on to direct them. In the 1970s, John Milligan, a major heroin trafficker, would tell the Narcotics Bureau he was terrified of Hallahan, who was bankrolling his heroin importations. Milligan told the bureau that if he talked his life would be in danger. He informed them that Hallahan had claimed that he had already murdered a prostitute named Shirley Brifman.

Uninfluenced by Ron Richards and the Truth’s promotion of Hallahan, the Full Court delivered a damning verdict on Hallahan. Justice Stanley, who had already studied Hallahan’s behaviour in at least two cases, took the lead in reporting:
“Campbell alleges he was induced to plead guilty to vagrancy in these circumstances: Detectives took him away from the place where he was employed and searched his flat for blankets, sheets and pillow slips alleged by them to be missing from premises formerly occupied by him. Not finding any such articles, Hallahan said to him: “If you haven’t got them, you know who has got them and we will charge you with having house-breaking instruments. We’ll load you right up and make sure you get put away.” Campbell replied: “I don’t know where the blankets and other things are.” Hallahan said: “How much money have you got?” Campbell replied: “About four or five shillings.” Hallahan said: “We will charge you with vagrancy.” Campbell alleges he then told Hallahan about his employment history. “He had, in fact, obtained part-time employment at the Top Cat Sound Lounge, 74 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane. He was required to work each Friday and Saturday evening, being paid three pounds per night. He worked on Saturday, June 22, and he was at work at that address on Friday June 28 when taken away by Hallahan. “Campbell alleges that having told Hallahan this, Hallahan said: “If you don’t plead guilty we will go to your flat with house-breaking house-breaking instruments and then charge you with having possession of them. You’ll get at least 12 months’ imprisonment. But if you plead guilty, you will get out of the vagrancy charge.” He alleges Hallahan also told him what to say in court and said: “If you say what I tell you, I will not rubbish you in court. If I get you out of this charge I want you out of town by Tuesday. In truth, Campbell was in work and taken away by the police while on duty at his place of employment.”

The misnamed Sunday Truth was the megaphone for the Rat Pack, glamorising crooks like Hallahan.

 

COLIN JAMES BENNETT AND THE NATIONAL HOTEL INQUIRY

Colin Bennett, born on 10 May 1919 in Townsville, died in 2002, was a lawyer and parliamentarian who was one of the Rat Pack’s few foes, and their most powerful adversary.

Speaking in the Queensland Parliament shortly after the weirdo raid and the court’s verdict on Hallahan, Bennett told how the Full Court of Queensland had found “that the top glamour detective of Queensland was guilty of perpetrating a fraud on one of the courts”, yet Commissioner Bischof was supporting Hallahan.  Bennett said:

“That is perhaps one of the most serious offences that anybody in Queensland could commit, and it is even more serious when it is committed by an allegedly trusted police officer. But, lo and behold, the Commissioner of Police does not accept the unanimous decision of the Full Court and will have the decision investigated departmentally. What a shocking impertinence from any public servant or any other person in the community. There have been many occasions when this Commissioner has suspended policemen and dismissed them. On this occasion… he does not even suspend the police officer concerned. What is more this particular officer glamourises himself by dragging some poor individual, draped only in a little towel, not arrested – he still has not been charged – yet this officer assaults him by dragging him from private premises. No action has been taken and I know none will be taken. He drags him out from private premises and either arranges or had pre-arranged for a weekend newspaper to make an incursion into this individual’s privacy and dignity by having a photograph taken.”

On October 29, 1963,  Bennett rose again to condemn Commissioner Bischof and the Rat Pack of corrupt detectives, who were his bagmen: “I propose to concentrate my attention on the police department and the police force of Queensland,”  he said, before imparting some advice to the Commissioner and his friends: “I do not wish to dally too long on this subject, but I should say that the Commissioner and his colleagues who frequent the National Hotel, encouraging and condoning the callgirl service that operates there, would be better occupied in preventing such activities rather than tolerating them.”

Sunday Truth commented on its front page: “The campaign Mr Colin Bennett MLA is waging against the police commissioner Mr Bischof is now completely out of control and in the public interest the State Government can move only one way. It must order an immediate Royal Commission.” The reason it gave for needing an inquiry was:

“The facts are that the honour and integrity of the Queensland police commissioner have been attacked. His name has got to be cleared.”

Thanks to the urgings of the Truth for the government to counter the statements in Parliament by Bennet, the National Hotel Inquiry would be announced shortly thereafter, with its terms of reference limited to enable Justice Harry Gibbs to clear  the reputations of the crooked Commissioner Bischof and his ratty friends.

Most of this (with a bit of editing and rewriting) from:
Bishop, Steve . The Most Dangerous Detective: The Outrageous Glen Patrick Hallahan  Kindle Edition. $12.95

More info on the finding against Hallahan

The three judges constituting the appeal court, Stanley, Mack and Wanstall, did not believe Hallahan’s denial that he was blackmailing those he arrested into pleading guilty. The allegations were he would threaten to load them up for a far more serious crime if they didn’t plead guilty; or he would threaten to detain them over the weekend and not notify their families. The judges were so concerned by his behaviour that they laid down a course of action that all magistrates should follow if a defendant appeared before them without a legal representative and pleaded guilty. They said: “The magistrate should not only inquire whether anyone connected with the police has made any suggestion that he should plead guilty and advise the accused to plead not guilty unless he receives from the accused a prompt and convincing disclaimer.
The case went into the legal lexicon as ‘Hallahan v Kryloff, ex-parte Kryloff’ and has been frequently quoted in Queensland judgements ever since.

Another example of Hallahan’s technique in gaining guilty pleas concerned a man who pleaded guilty to a crime which was never even committed. Writes Bishop:
“So why had Cavanagh confessed to a crime that not only did he not commit, but which had never occurred in the first place? He told his solicitor that on the Saturday morning he had been threatened by Hallahan: You can either plead guilty, go before the court today and be home with your wife this afternoon or we’ll throw you in jail until you come clean and your wife will be worried sick at home. “I know I pleaded guilty but I challenge anyone else placed in similar circumstances to do anything different,” said Cavanagh. “I’d been taken away by the police and faced with a weekend in the watchhouse if I pleaded not guilty.”

Bishop, Steve (2012-11-06). The Most Dangerous Detective: The Outrageous Glen Patrick Hallahan (p. 63).  Kindle Edition.

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How many cones? How many pills? How many lines of coke?

A s a researcher into the illicit drug trade, I am intrigued by the question of the size of Australia’s market in illicit drugs. Cannabis, it is said, is the biggest cash crop in Australia, but how can we know how many tonnes of cannabis Australians inhale each year?
What is the size of Australia’s market for illicit drugs?
How much is our illicit drug trade worth?
What is the potential for taxing and regulating this industry?
We can gain some idea of how big Australia’s illicit drug trade is from the many re-ports of drug seizures that regularly feature in our news broadcasts. In the seven month period between October 2012 and April 2013, the ABC alone ran about 500 stories related to drugs and drug seizures. Reading these stories gives an indication of the market’s size. For the sake of analysis, I categorised the biggest seizures as mon-ster (value greater than $250 million street value); massive (seizures in the $50 million to $250 million street value range); enormous ($10million to $50 million); and big ($1 million to $10 million).
In the past nine months there were two monster seizure above the $250 million range. On 30 July 2012, Customs and police found 558kg of illicit drugs valued at around $500 million street value in a shipment of terracotta pots bound for Sydney: 306 kilo-grams of crystal methamphetamine (ice) and 252 kilograms of heroin. This was our third largest seizure of heroin and the largest seizure of ice in Australian history at that time. This Australian record for ice did not last long. On 28 February, 2013, the Australian black market achieved a new personal best, 585 kilos of ice, worth an esti-mated $440 million dollars.
Commenting on this first monster seizure, Australian Federal Police (AFP) Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin talked up the success of the AFP, “This operation fol-lows the AFP’s most successful year in terms of drug seizures. In the 2011/12 finan-cial year, the AFP and its partner agencies seized almost 14 tonnes of illicit sub-stances bound for drug distribution networks across Australia.” With drug seizures approaching the two billion dollar mark, 2012/13 is shaping up to be another bumper year for the AFP. But is the big picture really one of continuing police success, as Deputy Commissioner Colvin spun the story, or one of a country swimming in illicit drugs?
Below these two monster busts were reports of five massive seizures valued in the $50 million to $250 million range:$77m cocaine ring smashed: AFP, Foreign nation-als arrested over $237m drug seizure, Trio charged over 50kg heroin drug bust, Joint policing operation nets 200kg cocaine in shipwreck, along with the related story , Body on Tonga drugs yacht identified. As well as these, there was another massive cocaine haul, 300 kilograms seized in Bundaberg in November 2012.
Dr John Jiggens is a writer who has published several books including Marijuana Australiana, The killer cop and the murder of Donald Mackay and Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp. His academic works on Australian drug markets include The Economics of Drug Prohibition in Australia, Estimating the Size of the Australian Heroin Market: A New Method, and Australian Heroin Seizures and the causes of the 2001 Australian Heroin Shortage.
How many cones? How many pills?
page 3
Australia’s biggest anti-cannabis operation was the annual police helicopter raids on the NSW North Coast, a lengthy eradication program that began in the New England district in November and wrapped up in the Coffs Harbour district in April, having swept over the entire NSW north coast. According to Drug Squad Commander, Superinten-dent Nick Bingham, it yielded almost 14,000 can-nabis plants, valued at $25 million. With more than a hint of wishful thinking Bingham declared: “Our aim is to disrupt the supply chain, to go and find and pull as many plants as we can and get that can-nabis off the street and hopefully either drive prices up or keep prices stable and that will discourage people, we hope, (from using) cannabis.” As Bingham conceded, massive police operations are needed simply to keep the price of drugs at their present price. As cannabis activists have often joked, the Drug Squad are the Price Maintenance Squad for organised crime! But this is more than a joke: this is the essence of Prohibition. Prohibition acts as a multiplier for the black market. Every dollar we spend on drug law enforcement is worth $10 to the black market. Currently, Australia spends about $1.5 billion on drug law enforcement: this generates a black market worth approximately $15 billion dollars for organised and disorganised crime. It is the weight of police, courts and prisons pushing down that drives up the price of illicit drugs and makes them more valuable than gold.
Following the current record ice seizure in March 2013 about 350 heavily-armed police officers raided 30 properties across Sydney, the Illawarra and Port Stephens and 18 people were arrested. New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione declared. “Today you have seen evidence of the police at their very best. The one thing you can take away clearly is, in terms of organised crime, New South Wales police and the Crime Commission have you people firmly in our sights. We’re not going away.”
But neither are the drugs. Despite seizing close to two billion dollars worth of illicit drugs so far this year, all these massive police operations have had no significant impact on the availability of illicit drugs.
Four decades ago, when President Richard Nixon launched the War on Drugs, free market econo-mist, Milton Friedman, declared that the failure of prohibition was inevitable because of corruption as officials succumbed to the lure of easy money: Said Friedman: “So long as large sums of money are involved—and they are bound to be if drugs are illegal—it is literally hopeless to expect to end the traffic or even to reduce seriously its scope.” Sto-ries like, Customs officers suspected in airport smuggling ring, Customs corruption extends to waterfront, SAS officer not fit to plead, Police Commissioner’s son breaches parole, Police officer facing drug charges, demonstrated the accuracy of his prediction. For those who enjoy irony there was, Police take heart in more reported drug offences, where Senior Sergeant Marty Haime from Geraldton police ex-plained a 30.6 per cent increase in drug offences in the Gascoyne area as positive because it was show-ing results that would yield a ‘generational change’ in ‘five to 10 years’. Said Sergeant Haime, “We’d like to think we’re changing behaviours as time goes by.” However, the big drug story of the past year was not about Australia. It was the success of the vote for legalising cannabis in the US states of Colorado and Washington. In 1976 The Australian inter-viewed a group of Sydney 16-year-olds about how they saw the future. To these 16-year olds, the le-galisation of drugs was inevitable. A schoolboy predicted, “The use of drugs will be so common it will be legalised. This will be a great advantage because it will no longer be a big business issue with dealers becoming millionaires overnight.” Another said, “I also think it should be legalised because the more you say ‘don’t do this it’s bad’ the more the person’s going to do it.” Watching the results of the legalisation vote in Washington and Colorado in November 2012, were these former teenagers (now in their fifties) about to see their prediction vindicated?

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How come you’re so bloody accurate about the Mackay murder? (DM2)

How come you’re so bloody accurate about the Mackay murder?

On the Monday after The Area News article was published, on 20 August 2012, I received an email from John Higgins, a journalist I had previously tried to contact. The title of his email was: “How come you’re so bloody accurate about the Mackay murder”. It read:

In my old age, I have decided to write a book about my life.
A large part of it described my time as editor of the Leeton newspaper and my work with Don Mackay.
Many times, I’ve found your stuff on the internet and compared what you write, to what I know.
You’ve reported stuff which was only known to Don and I.
I can’t work out where you get your stuff from, and can’t believe that you could be so bloody accurate.
So much of your stuff is exactly 100% accurate.
I find that astounding.
regards
John Higgins

For  a “controversial author”, it was wonderful to receive such a ringing endorsement, especially because I immediately recognised the name. I had tried to contact John Higgins unsuccessfully over some years because I knew he was a local journalist who had been in contact with Don Mackay on the day of his disappearance. In 2007 Kevin Meade wrote a story in The Australian about my research on the Mackay murder and he ended it with a quote from a reporter called John Higgins about how he had told Don about Fred Krahe arriving in Griffith the day of the murder and Don saying “I wonder what his job is this time?”

I had not heard this quote before so I googled “John Higgins” but John Higgins is a much more difficult name to google than John Jiggens. I got too many hits. I waded through them, but I couldn’t find the quote Kevin Meade had used. Later, I tried to contact Kevin Meade to find his source, but found he had died. Kevin and I had gone to Banyo High School together. He was a year younger than me so the news of his death was unsettling. I gave up trying to contact John Higgins then, assuming I had hit a dead end, so it was wonderful to be in contact with John Higgins finally. I rang him up and we talked about matters, including our rather similar sounding names. He told me that at one stage his friends had given him the nickname “Jiggins” (from J. Higgins, I suppose), and when my articles started appearing on the internet, people assumed it was him, using a pseudonym!

But how to answer his question: Why am I so bloody accurate about the Mackay murder?

From what I have observed the major methodology of crime reporters is to cultivate influential detectives, generally by sharing a few beers together at some ‘watering hole’, and getting tips and even the occasional police file left (accidently, of course) on the hotel table. In the social sciences this methodology is dignified by some researchers who call it interrogating Key Informants (KI); the use of the acronym, KI, making it sound a lot more scientific than it is. Critics, like me, describe this method somewhat more accurately as listening to pub gossip.

By contrast, I call my style of history doing ‘history by numbers’ and regard it is being far more scientific. My technique relies on numerical analysis, rather than pub gossip; consequently, it is more difficult to understand. I numerically analyse trade figures: in this case Australia’s marijuana trade. Evan Whitton told me that my great insight into the Mackay murder was to know that the size of the plantation at Coleambally meant there was an international drug smuggling conspiracy involved in the Mackay murder, which is correct. I know this because I can do the maths. I am world-class in estimating the size of illicit drug markets: I have written award-winning academic papers and major encyclopaedia articles on the subject and have been published in leading academic magazines. I can read the drug seizure figures the way financial analysts read the stock market. It is a weird power and you have to read my academic papers and be numerate as well as literate to fully understand my method.

In short, the size of the Coleambally crop told me that Don Mackay was killed by an international drug smuggling syndicate. The Coleambally plantation was 375,000 marijuana plants, approximately 60 tonnes of cannabis. The only people who could move such a large quantity of pot, I reasoned, had to be an international drug smuggling ring who were major players in the US drug market, because there is no other market that can absorb that quantity of cannabis. So my starting hypothesis was that Don Mackay was murdered because he had uncovered an international drug smuggling conspiracy that operated in the US market, and I worked backwards from this Because it was an era of massive seizures, there were other seizures that also seemed signs of an international drug smugglers operating out of Australia in the 1970s. So I was led to Murray Riley, Bela Csidei and that led me to Frank Nugan, the Nugan packing shed and Fred Krahe. I started from the hypothesis that Mackay was killed by an international drug smuggling conspiracy and found links along the way that confirmed this hypothesis, which showed me I was on the right track. I knew the secret that Don Mackay was murdered to hide, not because someone in a pub told me, but because I employed the traditional instrument of economic history.

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Neil Pike reviews Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp

Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp
Reviewed by Neil Pike

As Australians we’re all taught at a very early age that this country was “settled” by the British as a convict colony. The Yanks threw the Poms out and they had nowhere else to send their criminal classes, so they sailed halfway round the world and formed a bloody big prison farm here in the Antipodes.
This is the popular history of how Australia was formed and it’s always been enshrined in our history books right next to another familiar old tale. You know the one. The classic imperialist fairy story that has the indigenous inhabitants of this huge continent happily greeting the Great White Father, handing over the lease and shuffling contentedly off to die of smallpox. Upon such myths are national identities built.
Sometime in the last 30 years or so, people started questioning the second myth but until recently no-one ever queried the first. Dr. John Jiggens in his new book Sir Joseph Banks and the Question of Hemp finally does this. Jiggens is an author who has been kicking round the Australian literary scene (and Nimbin) for quite a few decades now. In that time he’s written a number of very readable and often controversial tomes. His first published book was a gonzo telling of the Aquarius Festival (Rehearsals For The Apocalypse published 1983). Since then he’s covered a lot of ground – the Hilton bombing (The Incredible Exploding Man published 1991), an Australian version of The Emperor Wears № Clothes with Jack Herer and an examination of the Don Mackay murder in Griffith and the role of the Nugan Hand bank in the whole sordid business (The Killer Cop and the Murder of Donald MacKay published 2009) among other writings.
He’s also managed to become the leading expert on the history of cannabis in Australia. His research always seems to turn up new angles on the subjects that he covers, so it’s no surprise that when he turned his attention to the British settlement of Australia he uncovered some unusual facts.
In his research, Dr Jiggens discovered that Sir Joseph Banks was the leading British expert in Hemp cultivation. He points out that hemp was the backbone of the empire in Banksy’s time, the only known source of the fibre from which the sails and rope that powered the English fleets came, the equivalent of what oil is today. Unfortunately for the Poms, most of their hemp came from Russia and had to be transported through areas controlled by their mortal enemies, the French. This lack of control of a primary resource played hell with the British ruling class’ sense of security. They desperately wanted their OWN stash of hemp. Attempts to achieve this in America and Canada were unsuccessful and the price of hemp kept rising. Sir Joseph Banks (in his role as court genius and all-round Renaissance man) spent considerable time and effort studying Hemp and researching ways and locations for Britain to cultivate a large quantity of high quality cannabis. Australia seemed perfect for this task but because of the political nature of the mission (hemp being such a vital part of the war effort) it acquired a “top secret” category and was buried beneath an official cover story of the need for a penal colony.
But before we raise our bongs in salute to yet another historic stoner, it’d be worth pointing out that Banks (like many a modern pothead) didn’t know the difference between psychotropic cannabis and the industrial kind. In fact Banks didn’t even realise there was a psychotropic kind until quite late in life and after several unsuccessful attempts to turn Indian dope into maritime rope. The Australian hemp farm experiments also seemed to have suffered from the same botanical mix-up.
The bottom line seems to be that cannabis requires very different strains and methods of cultivation to achieve useable hemp than it does to grow smokeable pot. The Brits, it seems, just didn’t get this. Eventually, Banks was astounded to discover that you could get very high off the stuff the Indians were growing and sent a stash of it to his good mate Coleridge the poet. What effect this had on Coleridge’s already bountiful appreciation of opium remains unrecorded. You can imagine him commenting that the dreams weren’t as good though…
Fascinating as these speculations may be, the main thesis of Dr Jiggens’ book is that Australia was founded as a hemp colony and that ignorance of the difference between dope and rope resulted in failure in these attempts. Although this thesis becomes very believable and almost self-evident with unbiased close appraisal, no-one it seems has ever done so before. Jiggens (in doing this) has come up with a fresh and radical reappraisal of the strategies behind the colonisation of Australia. A well-researched, informative and interesting read.

 

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In A Time Of Murder: The Murder Of Don Mackay

About 6.30 pm on a Friday night, July 15 1977, a local anti-marijuana crusader named Donald Mackay left the Griffith Hotel and walked outside to the car park where his mini-van — with its conspicuous Mackay’s Furniture logo — was parked. An assassin was waiting. As Donald Mackay went to open the front door of his van, the assassin emptied his .22 revolver into Donald Mackay’s body. In an office nearby, an accountant heard a sound ‘like someone being sick’, and three sharp cracks ‘like a whip’.

Mackay’s blood-spattered vehicle was found in the early hours of the next morning. There were blood spots and stains extending from the front mudguard back to the bottom of the driver’s door. The keys had fallen under the car, and two drag marks extended from where the keys lay to a large blood stain on the ground. Three spent .22 cartridge cases were found near the large blood stain. It looked like murder and a very professional hit too. For the body of Donald Mackay would never be found.

In 1977 there had been high hopes that cannabis use might be decriminalised in New South Wales. In the previous years, nine US states had decriminalised cannabis use, and many Australians were eager that we should follow suit. In March that year, the Joint Committee upon Drugs of the NSW parliament recommended the removal of jail sentences for personal use of marijuana, and in April, NSW Premier Neville Wran outlined a plan to remove jail sentences as penalties for people convicted of having marijuana for personal use. Mr Wran said that marijuana was widespread and that “tens of thousands of parents whose sons and daughters smoke marijuana” would not want their children to carry “the stigma of being a jailed, convicted criminal.”

But the murder of Donald Mackay would change all that. Mackay’s face became a newspaper icon: he was the man the “Mr Bigs” murdered because he knew too much. He was the martyr of Griffith, whose blood cried out for revenge.

 

The Pot Capital of Australia

The town of Griffith, situated 600 km south-west of Sydney, is the regional centre of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, whose irrigated fields make ‘the Area’ one of the largest producers of wine, rice, citrus, stone fruit and vegetables in Australia.

In the early 1970s, a group of Australian-Italian farmers began using their irrigated fields for the production of a new, illicit vegetable. In February 1974, members of the Sergi and Barbaro families were caught with two cannabis plantations, but they escaped with very light fines — excusing themselves in court by claiming that they were unaware it was marijuana they were growing; they thought the crop was ‘American tomatoes’. The sympathetic testimony of Det Sgt John Ellis, a Griffith detective who would later be convicted of corruption, was also helpful in reducing their sentences.

The Mackay family first became involved when Don Mackay’s wife, Barbara, wrote a letter to theGriffith Area News in February 1975 about this case. Barbara Mackay noted that this crop of marijuana was worth a quarter of a million dollars but that the fines imposed on the two growers were $250 and $500 respectively. In contrast several Leeton youth had receiving gaol sentences and fines of $900 for smoking the end product of the growers: “The contrast between these two judgements is alarming.” Her husband, Donald Mackay, let it be known that he was interested in finding out where these rumoured marijuana plantations were. His inquiries were to lead to the largest cannabis seizure in Australian history.

Warned against trusting the local police, Don Mackay met with selected members of the Drug Squad in Sydney; using information and vehicles supplied by Mackay, the Sydney Drug Squad raided a property at Coleambally 60 km south of Griffith on November 10 1975. The four police officers were amazed by the size of the crop they discovered. Screened from the road by a line of trees was a huge marijuana plantation spread over 31 acres. The operation was very sophisticated and each row of pot plants had its own water supply. The police estimated that there were 375,000 marijuana plants in total, and that, when mature, this one plantation would produce 60 tonnes of pot. At a time when the total value of agricultural production of the entire Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area was estimated at $60 million, the police estimated this huge crop had a street value of $60 million. To this day, Coleambally remains the biggest plantation ever discovered in Australia.

In March 1977, the Sydney Drug Squad raided another property at Euston 300 km due west of Griffith and discovered five acres of cannabis, some 5000 drying marijuana plants, along with evidence that another nine acres had been recently harvested. Although Mackay was not responsible for this raid, it seems that he was the man who was blamed.

 

The Criminal Takeover

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the cannabis dealing scene in Australia was run by an amateur network of young people who were drug enthusiasts themselves and who were known as ‘the old hippie dealers’, a group described by David Hirst as “one of the remaining aspects of an otherwise disembowelled counterculture”. However, in the winter of 1976 a criminal gang launched a takeover of pot dealing in Australia. Reports of the attack on the old hippie dealing network were carried in the Australian underground press, and they were remarkably similar. Marijuana only dealers would be visited by ‘heavies’ who offered a simple choice: either deal heroin or get out of the business. Along with US style prohibition, US style organised crime came to Australia.

In May 1977 an underground paper ‘with all the dope on dope’ called The Australasian Weed was published from Melbourne with the aim of becoming the voice of Australia’s marijuana smokers. Banned in Queensland and Victoria, restricted in NSW and other states, The Australasian Weed was forced to change its name rather than go out of business, becoming next The Australasian Seed, which was similarly banned, and then, in a long cat-and-mouse chase with the censor, The Australasian Need, The Australasian Greed, the Australasian Pleed and finally The Australasian ?eed.

In the fourth issue, The Australasian Greed, editor J.J. McRoach reflected on the changing nature of the Australian marijuana scene and the recent criminal takeover.

“Back in the ‘good old days of the counter-culture’, marijuana dealers were regarded by most smokers as Robin Hood types , romantic urban outlaws bringing the good stuff to the people. Some money was made by these dealers but we assumed the prime motivating force was the spirit of a new consciousness, not merely the carrot of fiscal reward. Now these Robin Hood dealers have, in the main, fallen by the wayside. The marijuana scene has been infiltrated by the barbarians – stand over merchants, organised crime, informers and corrupt police. They all combine to form what can be called an Ocker Nostra – merely isolating the bad boys of marijuana as Italian Mafia members operating out of NSW is a dangerous simplification, a red herring fostered by the media which draws our attention away from the fact that the tentacles of organised crime in marijuana permeates our society. Certainly there is evidence of an organised group of Italians growing marijuana, but they are only part of a system that reaches right into the Australian power structure.

Robbery, violence and murder are now part and parcel of what the Bulletin once described as an industry bigger than BHP. If Don Mackay was murdered because of his knowledge of a marijuana conspiracy, his death was by no means the first. Many drug murders have already occurred but, because the victims didn’t have the squeaky clean image of Don Mackay, not too many questions have been asked. The newspaper headlines, if at all existent, have been small.

The generation before us learnt the problems associated with the prohibition of a popular drug. The Alcohol Prohibition proved to be the spawning ground for America’s organised crime syndicates. Today the marijuana Prohibition is creating the same syndrome, and it is this syndrome that we dedicate this publication – GREED.

As McRoach predicted, it was the Italian-Australians who would be blamed for Mackay’s murder; the “Ocker Nostra” of corrupt police and standover men behind the criminal takeover and the Mackay murder would escape the investigating officers of the NSW police.

To be continued…

 

Dr John Jiggens.

“In a Time of Murder – The Murder of Don Mackay” (part 1 of 3),
StickyPoint Magazine Issue 02 (2007)
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Does Cannabis Use Cause Schizophrenia?

Over the past few years, the Australian media have promoted a new version of  “Reefer Madness”. According to this myth, cannabis use causes schizophrenia. The “proof” for this is to exhibit a few schizophrenics who use cannabis. The fact that there are millions of Australians who use cannabis and who are not schizophrenics is ignored.

Because schizophrenics tend to have extremely high rates of illicit drug use, it is relatively easy to find schizophrenics who use cannabis. Table 1 (below) shows the relative amount of psychoactive drug use among Australian schizophrenics versus the Australian population in general.

 

Psychoactive drug Use Australian Pop. Aust Schizo.
Tobacco (M) 27.3% 73.2%
(F) 20.3% 56.3%
Cannabis 18% 35%
Tranquillisers 4% 13.5%
Amphetamines 4% 12%
LSD 3% 10%
Heroin 1% 8%
Table 1: Recent Use of Psychoactive Drugs in the Australian Population (over 14) Versus Australian Schizophrenics (1998). (The schizophrenia data is from People Living with Psychotic Illness: An Australian Study 1997-98; while the figures for the population in general are from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey for 1998).

You could argue that the table supports the Reefer Madness hypothesis: Schizophrenics use cannabis at a significantly higher rate than the population in general, therefore cannabis must cause schizophrenia.

However, the totality of the evidence shows a different story. Although there are high rates of cannabis use among schizophrenics, the bigger picture shows that the level of drug taking by schizophrenics is significantly higher across the whole range of illicit and licit substances.

Unlike the population in general, schizophrenics are sick people who suffer from a mysterious and life-threatening disease. They are mad, and are treated as such; locked up, restrained, forcibly medicated. Taking drugs is the way they learn to treat their illness; and when their disease makes them depressed and suicidal, they seek out drugs to alleviate these moods. When their prescribed drugs don’t work, they use drugs from the street that are euphoriant and mood-altering. No doubt there are many occasions when these feel-good drugs work, and help those suffering from schizophrenia feel better. Likewise, there are no doubt occasions when the effects of illicit drugs compound the problems of schizophrenia and contribute to a breakdown.

You can regard the drugs in the list above either, as drugs that may cause schizophrenia (in which case, tobacco clearly causes schizophrenia) or alternatively, as drugs that schizophrenics find useful in alleviating the symptoms of their disease.

My suspicion is that the drugs in the table above are the ones that schizophrenics choose to self-medicate with. They are supplementary medication for a group of ill people who lack an effective therapeutic agent. Indeed, before they were banned, LSD, ecstasy, cannabis and amphetamines were all used at various times in the treatment of mental illness. In a post-prohibition world, the psychiatric use of these drugs (under medical supervision) might well reemerge.

Imposing the puritan ideal of a drug-free lifestyle on the schizophrenic population is itself rather crazy.

 

Australia’s Cannabis Plague

An important feature of the table above is the high level of cannabis use across the entire Australian population. Australians smoke more pot than nearly any other nationality on the planet.

Although Australia has many puritans who support drug prohibition and see drug-taking as evil, a great proportion of the Australian population is hedonistic and pleasure-seeking and has a long tradition of disregarding puritans, whom they contemptuously refer to as “wowsers”. Manning Clark saw Australian history as a struggle between “the enlargers of life” and “the straighteners” and tribal conflicts between “wowsers” and “larrikins”, “bodgies”, “surfies” and “hippies”—as young Australians have been variously known—are a recurring feature of life “down-under”.

Both pot smoking and the twenty-something lifestyle began in Australia with the Baby-Boomer generation of the 1960s. Since then, smoking pot became a rite-of-passage for Australian teenagers into the desired twenty-something world.

By 1998, recent use of marijuana among Australians aged 20-29 stood at 36%. Thirty years previous it stood at 0%. Decades of tougher and tougher drug laws, culminating in a US-style “War on Drugs”, caused the rate of cannabis use among twenty-somethings to fall by minus 36%!

By forbidding cannabis use, Australian puritans made it almost compulsory among Australia’s twenty-somethings. Partly this can be explained as “larrikin” rebellion, and partly as the “forbidden fruit” syndrome.

Table 2 (below) distributes Australia’s recent cannabis users into cohorts based on sex and age to demonstrate the high levels of cannabis use in the twenty-something age group. The 1998 group of twenty-somethings are the children of the Baby Boomers who make up the 40-49 cohort. The low level of use in the 60+ age group reflects the low cannabis use in the pre-Baby-Boomer generation.

 

Age Group M F Total
14-19 35% 34.2% 34.6%
20-29 43.7% 29.3% 36.5%
30-39 24.1% 16.3% 20.2%
40-49 16.6% 6.3% 11.3%
50-59 5.6% 7.6% 6.6%
60+ 1.1% 1.2% 1.1%
All ages 21.3% 14.7% 17.9%
Table 2: Recent Use of Cannabis in Australia by Sex and Age (1998

 

The Reefer Madness hypothesis

The extent of Australia’s cannabis plague and its relatively recent history make Australia an ideal country to study the relationship between cannabis and schizophrenia.

Let us accept the Reefer Madness hypothesis and assume that cannabis use causes schizophrenia. What this means is that if we can find a population where cannabis use is recent and has increased enormously over the last decades, we should be able to trace a corresponding “Madness” plague in that country, accompanying the “Reefer” plague.  Because “Reefer” causes “Madness”, we would predict a schizophrenic epidemic as many new cases of schizophrenia caused by the cannabis plague increased the natural, background level of schizophrenia in the population.

Australia is ideal for this purpose.

Because of our recent high levels of cannabis use, Australia should, over the last decades, have developed rates of schizophrenia higher than anywhere in the world.

If we were to chart Australia’s “Reefer” plague and compare it to our schizophrenia levels, the Reefer Madness hypothesis should be proven by the discovery of a corresponding “Madness” plague.

Table 3 (below) gives the dimension of Australia’s Reefer plague and the polls on which these estimates are based.

 

Year No. Cannabis Users Survey
1973 500,000 McNair
1977 675,000 McNair
1979 750,000 Morgan
1982 975,000 Morgan
1984 1,175,000 Morgan / NCADA
1988 1,500,000 Morgan / NCADA
1991 1,625,000 NCADA
1993 1,666,000 NDS
1995 1,850,000 NDS
1998 2,700,000 NDS
Table 3: The Australian Reefer Plague: Recent Users of cannabis in Australia, 1973-1998

As the table shows, the potential army of recruits for schizophrenia among Australia’s cannabis users is enormous. Even a prevalence rate of 1 in 100 (barely twice the background level) would add tens of thousands to the schizophrenic population.

If cannabis caused schizophrenia, the past two generations of Australians would have seen an unrivalled schizophrenia plague, matching our cannabis plague.

The popular press would be full of news of this extraordinary increase in madness in Australia, and some suitably “dumbed-down” name like “Mad Aussie Syndrome” would be given to the phenomena. The investigation of this disease —Mad Aussie Probe—and the determination of its cause —Mad Aussie Shock—would be front page news.

Eventually some researcher would correlate the extraordinary increase in schizophrenia and match it with the extraordinary increase in cannabis use. This would constitute credible scientific proof of the proposition that cannabis caused schizophrenia.

The fact that nothing like this happened is compelling proof that cannabis does NOT cause schizophrenia.

The evidence that schizophrenia levels have remained constant is overwhelming, not just in Australia, but right throughout the world.

People Living with Psychotic Illness: An Australian Study 1997-98, published as part of the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, found that the prevalence for schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorders in urban Australia was about 3 per 1000 in 1998. This was in the middle range of a world-wide prevalence of 2 to 5 per 1000.

The report commented:

“Epidemiological studies estimating the prevalence of schizophrenic and related psychotic disorders have been conducted since the early decade of this century [i.e.Twentieth Century]. The results of studies carried out at different times and different parts of the world … suggest that, notwithstanding cultural and biological differences between populations, and the different methods used to ascertain morbidity, the prevalence of schizophrenia is remarkably similar around the world (in the range between 2 and 5 per 1000 according to the majority of studies) and stable over time.”

This conclusion—that schizophrenia levels have been stable over place and time for as long as they have been measured—was based on an examination of 28 surveys into the incidence of schizophrenia conducted throughout the world over several decades. One of these surveys was a 1993 World Health Organisation study on the incidence of schizophrenia in which standardised methods of case detection, interviewing and diagnosis were applied simultaneously in 7 countries. Like the other surveys, this found little variation in the incidence rates of schizophrenia across the different populations and cultures.

Countries which had extremely high cannabis use (Jamaica in 1995] had the same schizophrenia rates per 1000 as countries with zero cannabis use (Norway in 1926-1935).

Q: Does cannabis use cause schizophrenia?

A: No. Over the past four decades most countries in the Western world have experienced rapidly increasing cannabis use. None of these countries has experienced any accompanying “Madness” plague. Countries like Australia and Jamaica which have the highest levels of cannabis use have levels of schizophrenia similar to the rest of the world.

We’ve smoked the “Reefer” for four decades, and “Madness” levels have remained steady, not just in Australia, but all over the world.

Where does that leave the “Reefer Madness” theory??

Dr John Jiggens.

“Does Cannabis Use Cause Schizophrenia”, StickyPoint Magazine Issue 01 (2006)
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Talking to Your Kids About Drugs

Alcohol is a Drug

After reading the Howard government’s pre-election booklet Talking to your kids about drugs you might think that alcohol is not a drug. Of course, this is not so. Alcohol is our most dangerous drug because it is so readily available and because we culturally misuse alcohol. However, the alcohol industry has purchased a privileged position in the drug debate.

The Australian media regularly portray excessive use of alcohol as patriotic and heroic, repeatedly showing Australian sporting teams (like the Storm and Geelong) celebrating victory by drenching themselves in alcohol. By contrast, a footballer caught with a Valium tablet is regarded as an evil beyond the pale! Political parties reflect this double standard. They also celebrate their victories with alcoholic binges, while John Howard spends tens of thousands of dollars, lavishly entertaining his guests with expensive alcoholic drinks.

Both the media and the political parties receive enormous amounts of money from the alcohol industry in the form of advertising and political donations. For example when Peter Hurley, the South Australian President of the Australian Hotels Association, the AHA, was appointed by the Howard government to the ABC Board, the Melbourne Age revealed Hurley had increased the coffers of Australia’s governing party through ‘liberal’ private donations as well as by organising donations to the Liberal Party by the Hotels Association. The Deputy Chair of the ABC Board, John Gallagher QC, also has links with the Hotels industry.

Through its influence with politicians, the alcohol industry controls strategic chokepoints in the public media. Through the power of its advertising dollar it exerts enormous influence on the commercial media and so Australia’s extensive alcohol problem goes underreported.

 

Drug Taking is Normal

Even if we accept the fiction that alcohol is not a drug (and we shouldn’t), surveys of the 20-29 year old population repeatedly show that drug taking is normal. For the past two decades, surveys have shown that the majority of the 20-29 year old population has used cannabis at some time. The use of ecstasy and speed is also prevalent. Although illicit drug use is routinely portrayed as deviant behaviour, the fact is that 20-somethings who don’t take drugs are the deviants.

Like sex, drugs are an activity most young Australians will explore. The War on Drugs has proved counter-productive, creating a ‘forbidden fruit’ syndrome that has glamorised drug use amongst the young. The result has been the emergence of the twenty-something lifestyle, famously characterised by sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

 

Tough on Drugs is a Cynical Misuse of Drugs Policy

For politicians like Howard, the failure of their drugs policy has been a good thing because it has meant that they have been able to scapegoat drug users in their crusade against the ‘evils of drugs’ for three decades. Back in 1976, Howard was in control of the Narcotics Bureau during the Fraser government. Howard and Queensland premier Bjelke-Petersen launched a massive police and navy raid on an isolated hippie colony in north Queensland called Cedar Bay. Houses were burnt down and gardens were destroyed as the Queensland police went on a rampage. Bjelke-Petersen and Howard defended their action, proclaiming they were “Tough on drugs” and harsh measures were needed to drive marijuana smokers out of Queensland!

Of course, this didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Nonetheless, the Liberals repeatedly claim victory in the war against drugs with the aid of dubious statistics. However, the truth is that every year more people go to jail for drugs, every year we spend more on drug law enforcement, and every year there are more drugs on the street.

The Talking with your kids about drugs booklet is another recycled effort, a repeat of a similar pre-election campaign in 2001. Such efforts have been repeatedly unsuccessful, nothing but cynical appeals to parent’s unconscious fears about their children and drugs to garner votes. It also generates confrontation between parents and children, causing them to blame each other or the ‘drugs’, rather than Howard for the appalling results of our drugs policy.

Rather than solving drug problems, Tough on Drugs has greatly increased our problem. More young Australians have died through drug overdoses during the Howard years than at any other time in our history. Indeed, during the Howard years drug overdose deaths became the second greatest cause of death among young people after road accidents!

However, like the War on Terror, an endless War on Drugs has been a boon to Howard because by making the problem far worse he has been able to frighten the public to give support to his extreme measures. Like the Chaser team, Howard’s War on Everything has proved electorally popular in previous elections and the major motivation of a booklet like Talking to your kids about drugs is to convince voters to re-elect the Howard government.

 

Use Common Sense

Rather than instructing the young with Liberal Party inspired anti-drugs hysteria that will be derided by their peers, the best approach is to encourage common-sense attitudes to drugs.

Humans have been exploring drugs for millions of years, and a large part of our medical knowledge has been derived from this pursuit. Exploring drugs can be fascinating and rewarding, but with all such explorations you need to be informed of dangers, and with drugs the two major problems are overdoses and addiction.

 

Dosage

The most important question you need to understand is this:

What is the difference between a drug and a poison?

The answer is: Dosage.

Every drug has an effective dose, and every drug has an overdose. Even drugs like strychnine and arsenic which are well-known poisons in large doses have non-lethal levels where they have a stimulating effect. Indeed, in past centuries, because drugs like coca and cannabis were unknown, drugs like strychnine and arsenic were used as recreational drugs in Europe and arsenic was a drug of abuse in nineteenth century Europe and there were arsenic addicts! (Some even argue that Napoleon was an arsenic addict.)

Maybe your poison isn’t arsenic, but it is important to understand that nearly every drug is a poison at certain levels. Of course, this famously does not hold for cannabis, but this is why cannabis is regarded as a ‘soft’ drug. Nearly every other drug can be lethal at high doses. The famous last words of the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, were: “I’ve just had eighteen double whiskeys. I think that’s the record.”

 

Avoid Drug Pigs

The most stupid animal in this regard is the ‘Drug Pig’. In Australia, drug pigs are numerous and you may be unfortunate enough to know several. These misguided young people actually believe that the more drugs you take, the more heroic you are. Nothing could be more dim-witted. The more drugs you take, the closer you get to an overdose and the further away you get from the effective dose. Drug pigs are ignorant and naïve users who do not know how to use drugs sensibly and the most levelheaded use of health dollars would be to target and educate drug pigs.

The drug pig attitude seems to be particularly prevalent with alcohol and even intelligent people, like Dylan Thomas, drink themselves to death. With drugs, less is good, while more is often fatal.

 

Addiction

Sadly, addiction is often inevitable with drug use, and certain drugs like cocaine and heroin seem to be particularly addictive. For this reason, it is best to avoid repeated use of these substances. But even soft drugs like tea, coffee and cannabis are addictive. If you are using drugs, you need to recognize the problem of addiction by limiting your drug taking behaviour, by setting boundaries such as the 4.20 rule (not smoking before 4.20pm), or by periods of abstention. Addiction results from repeated use so you have to break the pattern of repeated use by abstention or by substituting another drug.

 

Dr John Jiggens.

“Talking to Your Kids About Drugs”, StickyPoint Magazine Issue 04 (2008)
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The Origins of Marijuana Prohibition in Australia

In April 1938, the front page of the Australian newspaper, Smith’s Weekly, was dominated by a headline that shrieked ‘New Drug That Maddens Victims’. The article was subtitled ‘WARNING FROM AMERICA’ (which provided a clue to its author) and informed readers that the ‘PLANT GROWS WILD IN QUEENSLAND’. The plant in question was Cannabis Sativa; and this ‘new drug that maddens victims’ was marijuana. This article introduced Australian’s to the word marijuana and the Smith’s Weekly article marked the start of an American-inspired ‘Reefer Madness’ campaign in Australia. The article began:

“A MEXICAN drug that drives men and women to the wildest sexual excesses has made its first appearance in Australia. It distorts moral values and leads to degrading sexual extravagances. It is called marihuana. Marihuana is obtained from a plant (Cannabis Sativa) that has been discovered growing wild in many of the coastal parts of Queensland.”

Although the article was attributed to Smith’s Weekly’s Hawaiian correspondent, some familiar examples from Anslinger’s article ‘Marihuana Assassin of Youth’ published in The American Magazinein July 1937 indicate that the hand behind this was Harry Anslinger and the US Bureau of Narcotics, a fact subsequent stories confirmed. According to the article, ‘Cannabis Sativa was growing wild in Queensland.’ Indeed there were ‘acres of it’.

“There are places on the Queensland coast, some of them within a few miles of Brisbane, where the long-leafed plant, Cannabis Sativa, is to be seen growing freely and in the districts further north it literally flourishes in many places. Not far from Flying Fish Point, six miles from Innisfail, and situated at the mouth of the Johnstone River, is a patch of it which covers five or six acres. Farther along the coast, near Babinda, it is to be seen in plenty – also around Trinity Bay and near Port Douglas.

Much farther south, around Montville, it grows with more or less freedom, its deadly qualities completely unsuspected by those who see it every day and know it by one or the other of the vernacular names it possesses. Its occurrence has been reported from Caloundra, lately become one of Brisbane’s most fashionable holiday resorts, and it grows in profusion in parts of Moreton and Stradbroke Islands.”

This article created a marihuana panic and introduced Australians for the first time to the word ‘marihuana’. According to the article, Cannabis Sativa (marihuana) was a new kind of superweed with the potency attributed to skunk in our era. The article stated:

“Both botanically and chemically Cannabis Sativa is closely allied to Cannabis Indica, from which Indian hemp or hashish, well-known for its violently sex-stimulating effects, is prepared, with the difference that the action of C Sativa is twenty times more potent than is that of C. Indica.

Under the influence of the newer drug, the addict becomes at times almost an uncontrollable sex-maniac, able to obtain satisfaction only from the most appalling of perversions and orgies. Its effect is the same on either sex.”

Of course, this has no basis in botany or medicine. There are several members of the genus cannabis, including two cultivated species: Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica. European hemp or Cannabis Sativa had a long history of use as a seed or fibre crop but it was never used for drug production. Drug cannabis was known in Australia as Indian hemp and was regulated under the Poisons Act asCannabis Indica. Before the introduction of the word ‘marihuana’ in 1938, drug cannabis was widely used in Australia but it was called Cannabis Indica.

So the renaming of drug cannabis as marihuana caused considerable confusion in 1938 and allowed the Bureau of Narcotics to promote ‘marihuana’ as a new drug menace in Australia, even though Australians had a long and untroubled history of cannabis use. As the Director General of Health, Dr JHL Cumpston would shortly inform the Prime Minister’s Department, this ‘new drug that maddens victims’ had been used in Australia for decades.

The furore unleashed by the Smith’s Weekly marihuanaarticle prompted DJ Gilbert of the Prime Minister’s Department to write a memo to the Director General of Health.

“Occasionally the blood curdling noises of Smith’s leads to the spot marked X. If it is true that the plant which is spreading in our midst is as naughty as charged, your department may deem it necessary to become interested.”

Dr Cumpston replied to the Prime Minister’s Department in May 1938, advising them that the ‘New Drug that maddens victims’ was not new and had been known about for decades:

“With reference to the front page from Smith’s Weekly of the 23 April 1938 containing a “warning from America” concerning a “New Drug that maddens victims” obtainable from Indian Hemp and that the “plant grows wild in Queensland”, I have to advise that the drug has been known for decades and the hemp plant has been under cultivation in Australia for over 50 years. Being a tropical plant – native of India and Western Asia – it has probably grown wild (now acclimatised) more extensively in Queensland than in the more temperate climates of New South Wales and Victoria. When the plant is cultivated for fibre production, it is harvested quite early, before the pistillate flowers are fully developed, consequently little resin would be obtainable from a crop grown only for fibre.”

Dr John Howard Lidgett Cumpston was appointed as Australia’s first Director-General of the Commonwealth Health Department in 1921, serving until his resignation in 1945. In 1925 when the Prime Minister’s Department sought his advice on the proposal by the League of Nations to include cannabis in the convention on habit-forming drugs, Cumpston opposed the move, advising the government the only regulations on habit-forming drugs were concerned with opium and that Cannabis Indica was included in the various lists of poisons under the state Acts, and was sufficiently under control.

As a result of the Smith’s Weekly ‘New Drug That Maddens Victims’ story Dr Cumpston started the Department of Health’s marihuana file, Drugs and Medicines: Marihuana. The earliest items in the marihuana file were: a copy of the Smith’s Weekly April 1938 article ‘New Drug That Maddens Victims’, a similar article from The Sun in Sydney from 26 April 1938 ‘Marihuana Drug Killer Of Souls’, the letter from DJ Gilbert from the Prime Minister’s Department about the ‘New Drug That Maddens Victims’ article in Smith’s Weekly, Cumpston’s reply to Gilbert and two heavily underlined articles that formed the basis of Cumpston’s reply to Gilbert. The first of these was the section ‘Cannabis Indica, B.P. Indian Hemp’ from the British Pharmaceutical Codex 1911 and the other was ‘Illicit Traffic in Cannabis’ from the US Bureau of Narcotics. Two countervailing views of cannabis policy were colliding: Cumpston represented an ‘Australian’ model, which was medically based, and was represented by the article on Cannabis Indica from The British Pharmaceutical Codex 1911; Anslinger’s views and policies were represented in ‘Illicit Traffic in Cannabis’ and were distinguished by their use of the ‘marihuana’ word and their call for national and global laws similar to the Opium convention to regulate the importation of cannabis.

The disease Cumpston was being asked to administer was a moral panic created by sensational stories like ‘New Drug That Maddens Victims’ and ‘Marihuana Drug Killer Of Souls’ which were inspired by the incredible ‘reefer-madness’ views of Anslinger. While the newspapers unleashed an epidemic of fear, Cumpston’s sensible, well-considered advice would not be heeded. Gilbert’s opening sentences about ‘the blood curdling noises of Smith’s’ were apt. Smith’s noises were blood curdling and the yelpings of the rest of the press pack drowned out all reasonable discourse.

The Second Smith’s Weekly Article

Seven weeks after its first ‘reefer madness’ article, on June 11 1938, Smith’s Weekly delivered the second article in its series ‘Drugged Cigarettes: G-Man Warns Australia: FIRST DOPED PACKETS SNEAKED IN’.

“A FEW cigarettes containing marihuana – the drug which causes its victims to behave like raving sex maniacs, and has made pathetic slaves of thousands of young Americans – have been smoked at recent parties in Sydney.”

The G-Man in question was AM Bangs, the head of the Bureau of Narcotics in Hawaii, one of Anslinger’s deputies, whose photo adorned the cover of this issue of Smith’s Weekly. Bangs was quoted as saying that ‘Undoubtedly, if prompt action is not taken, marihuana will flood Australia and New Zealand’.

For Smith’s credulous readers, Bangs described the situation in Hawaii where his ‘special squad of Washington G-Men’ were smashing this ‘vicious racket’.

“Continually, marihuana dens in Honolulu are being cracked open by raiding squads. The drugged victims are like punch-drunk fighters. They cannot be questioned for hours, sometimes days.

The women sit on their cell cots, their faces and clothes ripped, trying to piece together what they did in their orgy of lust. The men slowly come out of the stupor that gave them frenzied sexual desires and colossal physical strengths.”

This article also ended with direct quotes from Anslinger’s ‘Marihuana – Assassin of Youth’further confirming the Bureau of Narcotics’ connection.

The Smith’s article was lurid, rubbish, but it would have a lasting effect on Australian drug policy.

Shortly after the Marijuana Tax Act became law in the US in 1937, the US Consul in Sydney wrote to the Australian government, informing them about the Act and requesting information about Australian laws on the importation of cannabis, asking that five copies of each state’s cannabis regulations should be forwarded to the Treasury Department in Washington. An information sheet from the Bureau of Narcotics about the perils of marihuana called ‘Illicit Traffic in Cannabis’ (which proposed national and international laws similar to the Opium convention to regulate the importation of cannabis) was included. As a former diplomat, the head of the Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, was probably behind this request. Anslinger had previously worked for the Sate Department and knew how to use the consular system to exert pressure on lagging governments. He would have been delighted with the result. The next day; on the 27 October 1937 the Minister for External Affairs, RG Menzies, wrote to the Secretary-General of the League of Nations giving the agreement of the Australian government to the inclusion of Indian hemp extract or tincture within the scope of Article 10 of the International Convention relating to Dangerous Drugs signed at Geneva on 19th February 1925. Once Australia signed the convention, states like South Australia who’s Advisory Committee under the Food and Drugs Act opposed the extension of the provisions of the Dangerous Drug Act to Indian Hemp were forced into compliance on the 20th February 1941.

The Smith’s Weekly’s series of marihuana articles appeared some months later. They were also inspired by Anslinger. The second Smith’s article relied mainly on Anker Bangs, Anslinger’s Hawaiian deputy; and both the Smith’s Weekly articles and other articles from the time of the moral panic like ‘Marihuana Drug Killer Of Souls’, used examples from Anslinger’s ‘Marihuana, Assassin of Youth’ and his so-called ‘Gore Files’ on marihuana. Australia’s drug policy was Americanised, Anslinger-ised, after 1937 through the manipulation of the diplomatic power of the US state and by the inspiration a ‘Marihuana Sex Drug’ moral panic in the Australian press.

 

Sidebar: Indian hemp

While the word ‘marijuana’ was unknown in Australia before 1938, drug cannabis was very well-known. In the pharmacopoeias of the time drug cannabis was listed as Cannabis Indica. The name means Indian hemp, and the drug comes from the leaves and flowers of a plant that had been cultivated in India for millennia and which the Indians called ganja or bang. Originally an Indian plant, its use spread, first around the Indian Ocean, and then, at a later stage, around the Mediterranean, becoming widely known in Europe only in the nineteenth century.

The first major English work on the medical properties of the Indian hemp plant was Dr W. B. O’Shaughnessy’s On The Preparation of Indian Hemp Cannabis Indica in 1839. The Fifth Edition of the United States Dispensatory (1843) summarised Dr. O’Shaughnessy on the effects of cannabis ‘it alleviates pain, exhilarates the spirits, increases the appetite, acts decidedly as an aphrodisiac, produces sleep, and in large doses, occasions intoxication, a peculiar kind of delirium, and catalepsy’ and added ‘Its operation, in the hands of Dr. Pereira, appeared to resemble very much that of opium’ Since opium was the great herb of western medicine, this was high praise.

In 1860 in America the Ohio State Medical society convened a committee to examine the use of Cannabis Indica in medicine and they claimed successful treatment of neuralgic pain, dysmenorrhoea, uterine bleeding, hysteria, delirium tremens, whooping cough, infantile convulsions, asthma, gonorrhoea, chronic bronchitis, muscular spasm, tetanus, epilepsy and lack of appetite. It was considered by several physicians specific in menorrhagia (excessive menstrual flow) and it was widely used to dull the pain of childbirth; it was also used to alleviate migraine, and it was recommended as a remedy for this condition by Sir William Osler. Many of these medical uses for cannabis ‑ its effectiveness as an anti-convulsant and as an anti-spasmodic; its ability to stimulate the appetite; its reputation as an aphrodisiac; its ability to suppress nausea were rediscovered by marijuana users in the 1970s.

The section on Cannabis Indica in the British Pharmacopeia Codex 1911 (which Dr Cumpston relied on when drafting his reply to Gilbert) stated that the drug acted chiefly on the central nervous system. ‘It first produces excitement with hallucinations, a feeling of happiness and indifference to surroundings, this stage being followed by deep sleep. The hallucinations include inability to estimate time and space …. It is used as an anodyne sedative or hypnotic, in mania, spasmodic coughs, phthisis, asthma, acute neuralgia, dysmenorrhoea, and tetanus. It does not produce constipation nor loss of appetite.’ This last comment was obviously meant to distinguish it from opium which had many similar uses, but which produced these undesirable side effects.

In 1938 drug policy in Australia was based on the British model and was firmly in the hands of members of the medical profession like Dr Cumpston. A decade before in 1926, the report of the Rolleston Committee had addressed the problems of opiate addiction and drugs policy. Dominated by doctors, it opted for the medical definition of addiction. Addicts were defined, not as the ‘dope fiends’ of the popular press, but as ‘a person who, not requiring the continued use of the drug for relief of the symptoms of organic disease, has acquired, as a result of repeated administration, an overpowering desire for its continuance, and in whom withdrawal of the drug leads to definite symptoms of mental or physical distress or disorder.’ Addiction was seen as a disease, not as a vicious, criminal indulgence and was treated as such.

In 1938 dozens of cannabis-based remedies were readily available, either by prescription or over the counter, in Australia. The most famous of them, Dr J Collis Browns Chlorodyne, proved an immensely popular medicine in Australia over many decades. Its simple, yet effective recipe ; six grams of black Nepalese hash dissolved in chloroform and topped up with morphine made it the country’s favourite panacea, and it was widely imitated by rivals who produced their own proprietry chlorodynes, such as Faulding’s Chlorodyne and Freeman’s Chlorodyne and the strikingly named Dr Poppy’s Wonder Elixir (with cannabis extract). The British Pharmaceutical Codex 1911 noted that ‘Tincture of Indian hemp is a constituent of, and gives the green colour to compound tinctures of chloroform and morphine’.

Attempts were made to prevent over-the-counter sale of Chlorodyne in the Australian state of Victoria in 1904, and were met with outrage. When a member of the Victorian parliament proposed that it should be unlawful to dispense narcotic drugs such as opium, morphine, Chlorodyne or cocaine without a doctor’s prescription, he met immediate opposition from country members who complained about the inclusion of Chlorodyne. ‘Why should a man have to ride thirty miles to a medical man in order that he might get a bottle of Chlorodyne which was a drug very commonly used in the country?’ one demanded. Another asserted that ‘Chlorodyne was a very wholesome medicament. Why should he have to pay a guinea for a prescription before he could get it?’

In a similar vein, the Chairman of the Central Board of Health in 1906 was outraged that South Australia’s anti-opium acts had defined opium so loosely that any medical preparation that contained opium or morphine could be included in the ban: ‘The effect of the amending Act was that no officer at any station could give anyone a dose of Dover’s Powder for a cold from the departmental medical chest nor could anyone give a member of his family a single drop of chlorodyne for diarrhoea or dysentery without transgressing the law.’ As this indicates, Chlorodyne was regarded as being so safe that children of that era were regularly dosed with it. Like heroin, Chlorodyne was investigated by the Rolleston committee with the result that its morphine content (the focus of concern, not its cannabis content) was reduced.

Cannabis cigarettes, known variously as Joy’s Cigarettes or Cannadonna cigarettes, were also widely advertised in colonial Australia as a cure for asthma. They were still available after the Second World War but the rise of cannabis prohibition would curtail their use, even though the Director and General of Health, JHL Cumpston, noted that ‘no instance of addiction to them has been brought to notice’ and ‘that they are used for medicinal purposes’.

While cannabis prohibition was sponsored internationally by the governments of South Africa, the United States and Egypt, there was little enthusiasm for cannabis prohibition in either Britain or Australia. Australian drugs policy was based very much on the British system and it was a medical model not a US-style law-enforcement model. Hemp was still grown in Australia and wild hemp crops flourished with official indifference. Cannabis medicines were still widely available and possession of cannabis was not even a crime.

 

Dr John Jiggens.

“The Origins of Marijuana Prohibition in Australia”, StickyPoint Magazine Issue 05 (2008)
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