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Monday Message Board

May 12th, 2008

It’s time once again for the Monday Message Board. Please post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

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  1. Gojod
    May 12th, 2008 at 13:02 | #1

    There has been some discussion recently over Dr Alex Wodak’s calls to legalise cannabis and have it sold at Australia Post outlets.

    http://www.abc.net.au/cgi-bin/common/player_launch.pl

    His argument is that because there is no hope of stopping supply, it’s better to have the production and sale of cannabis federally regulated. Cannabis would be sold in much the same way as cigarettes are, complete with graphic health warnings attached. The drug would be supplied by licensed growers who would follow strict guidelines. Tax revenue could be invested into awareness and education programs.

    This seems like a reasonable idea, at least worthy of some consideration. However, Nicola Roxon has flatly rejected any consideration on behalf of the government.

    Is this just too hot for the government to touch? I suspect the Labor government is keen to avoid engaging too much with ‘lefty’ agendas, especially early on in the first term.

    Pragmatic approach to harm-minimisation or just a dumb idea?

  2. O6
    May 12th, 2008 at 13:20 | #2

    Admitting that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed is one thing, what to do next is another, apart from exploratory, careful decriminalisation.
    Health warnings would be needed for the hazard of smoking and for the risk of triggering schizophrenia. Use of Post Offices would increase the number of outlets selling the opportunity to inhale burnt plant material. Would this be a good thing?

  3. may
    May 12th, 2008 at 14:26 | #3

    maybe it is illegal because while it is illegal it is worth a lot more than if it is legal,graded and taxed and monitored?
    while it is illegal the prospect of h*mp (indica not s*tiva)being grown for fibre and paper, replacing many plastic products is less in the public eye?

  4. John Mashey
    May 12th, 2008 at 14:42 | #4

    Just out of curiosity, before Oz tackles cannabis, how is cigarette-reduction coming?

    Does anyone know if, in particular, candy-flavored tobacco cigarettes are saleable in Oz, i.e., like Twista lime and similar goodies whose traget audience is obvious.

  5. El Mono
    May 12th, 2008 at 14:44 | #5

    I always liked the idea legalising drugs to takie the power away from Criminal organisations and thus decrease the crimes associated with runnig a drug ring. I do wonder where crime would gravitate towards if illicit drugs were leglised.

    Though i do not like the idea of some pro- Cannibus groups being vindicated

  6. Ian Gould
    May 12th, 2008 at 16:01 | #6

    John,

    The main brand of candy cigarette here used to be Fags – a few years back they changed the name to “Fads” and altered the packaging so instead of showing a gangster holding a cigar he was holding a stick of dynamite.

    Not really sure if that’s a better message to send.

  7. John Mashey
    May 12th, 2008 at 16:38 | #7

    Ian: thanks, but I didn’t mean *candy* cigarettes, I meant candy-flavored *tobacco* cigarettes, like Twista Lime, Kauai Kolada, Mandarin Mint, etc. Maybe Oz managed to escape having this stuff?

  8. smiths
    May 12th, 2008 at 16:59 | #8

    Admitting that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed is one thing

    all these kinds of statements are arse-about-face

    if the point of reagans war on drugs was to cut down on supply and use of drugs then yes it would be a failure,
    but it wasnt the point, the point was to control the trade and maximise profits for those involved, and i would say they are doing spectacularly well,

    i wonder how many military flights go from afghanistan to the newest ‘country’ in the world kosovo every month
    But in the six months since Washington enthroned the Kosovo Liberation Army in that Yugoslav province, KLA-associated drug traffickers have cemented their influence and used their new status to increase heroin trafficking and forge links with other nationalist rebel groups and drug cartels.
    http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2000/01/heroin.html

    the chances of any government going its own way on drug policy is nil

  9. pablo
    May 12th, 2008 at 17:48 | #9

    Alex Wodak is no mug and has been on the front line of dealing with drug reactions for at least two decades. I agree with his proposal not least for the fact that anyone who has stood in lne in an Australia Post gueue knows that you have to be a serious consumer of AP services to bother.

  10. Titus
    May 12th, 2008 at 19:36 | #10

    I have chronic pain, have done for 10 years or so. Oddly enough, I have yet to be given a serious trial on any of the “strong” drugs, as there seems to be an unholy fear in the medical fraternity of drug abuse. In the USA, the DEA are applying a lot of muscle to doctors over narcotics prescribed to patients. No doubt we will soon follow suit.

    The origin of my pain was from surgery. Thus, it is rather ironic to me that heroin addicts on methadone can get increased doses of methadone if they have chronic pain (a not uncommon effect from vein collapse, infections, etc), yet people in my situation cannot get appropriate opiates on prescription. On the other hand, I could if I felt so disposed, wander down the street and pick up unlimited quantities of cigarettes and whiskey every day – for entertainment purposes! And if I have pain while dying of smoke and alcohol related diseases, guess what is the first line of defence – legally prescribed opiates.

    Galen (130 CE or thereabouts) administered a daily dose of opium mixed with honey to Marcus Aurelius, a wide spread practice of the time. America had laudanum in the 1800s. In the 21st century, we can nick down to the pharmacy and pick up any number of potentially fatal OTC drugs, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Cannabis though, is outlawed.

    Perhaps there is a consistent moral wending its way through our 21st century view on drugs, but I think you’d have to be on drugs to identify it…

  11. May 12th, 2008 at 20:29 | #11

    #2 Current drug use policies have been markedly successful as the recent National Drug Use Survey makes clear. See here. For a British Report which confirms the same trends in the UK see here.

    Why these absurb claims about failed policies get repeated ad nauseam I don’t know. Is it ignorance or just refusal to see the abundantly clear evidence?

    Whatever the pro-legalisation lobbyists like Dr Wodak might suggest the fact is that cannabis and other drug use is fading.

    Why change current policies when they are working?

  12. SJ
    May 12th, 2008 at 21:14 | #12

    Harry Says:

    Current drug use policies have been markedly successful as the recent National Drug Use Survey makes clear. See here.

    Where “here” is not a link to the National Drug Use Survey, but rather a link to some idiot’s opinion about the implications of the survey. The actual survey is here.

    may Says:

    while it is illegal the prospect of h*mp (indica not s*tiva)being grown for fibre and paper, replacing many plastic products is less in the public eye?

    Not illegal much longer:

    09 Apr 2008

    Environmentally friendly locally grown industrial hemp could soon be used in everything from dog food to bio-fuel, with plans to introduce a new licensing scheme, Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said today.

    Minister Macdonald said a potentially lucrative industrial hemp industry was not far off, following changes which will be introduced by the Iemma Government.

    “Industrial hemp fibre produced here in NSW could pave the way for the establishment of a new viable industry that creates and sells textiles, cloth and building products made from locally grown industrial hemp,� Mr Macdonald said.

    “For example, it could be used as an additive to wool in soft textured durable yarns, for insulation, as an alternative to fibreglass, in paper products and textiles and also for load bearing masonry for building.

    “Hemp seed oil can also be used as a base for skin care products and paints.

    “It can also be used in dog food production and may have potential for use as a bio-fuel.

    “There is growing support from the agricultural sector for the development of such a new industry. This is a direct result of the environmentally friendly nature of industrial hemp and a perceived interest for hemp products in the market.�

    The scheme will be administered by the Minister and will operate within a strict legal framework.

    “The NSW Government will amend existing criminal drug laws to ensure that existing drug law enforcement is not compromised – and this position is supported by NSW Police,â€? he said.

    Minister Macdonald said industrial hemp is a cannabis plant species. However, it has low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content compared to other forms of cannabis plants and cannot be used as a drug.

    “These measures will make it legal to cultivate industrial hemp with a licence, including for trial purposes,� he said.

    “Those seeking to run trials for industrial hemp will no longer have to seek approval from the Department of Health, once these measures are in place.

    �Irrigation trial yields from Yamba and the State’s Central West are now reporting 10 to 12 tonnes of dry stem per hectare.

    “These yields are competitive with those reported in northern Europe and Tasmania.

    “The environmental potential of industrial hemp is also very interesting.

    “Not only does hemp require less chemical application than some conventional crops, it has the ability to ‘lock up’ carbon in the production phase, thereby making it an environmentally friendly crop.�

    Minister Macdonald said the Government will consult with farming groups and industry during the development of the details of the licensing scheme.

    John Mashey Says:

    Just out of curiosity, before Oz tackles cannabis, how is cigarette-reduction coming?

    The summary of the survey says

    Tobacco
    Nearly half (44.6%) of Australians aged 14 years or older had smoked 100 or more cigarettes or the equivalent amount of tobacco at some time in their lives, but less than one in five (19.4%) had smoked in the last 12 months. The proportion of the population aged 14 years or older who smoked daily declined by nearly one percentage point between 2004 and 2007, from 17.4% to 16.6%. However, the average age at which smokers took up tobacco remained stable at a little less than 16 years.

    Tobacco was thought to be associated with a drug ‘problem’ by 2.6% of Australians aged 14 years or older and 14.3% approved the regular use of tobacco by adults; a further 22.5% neither approved or disapproved. Tobacco was the second most accessible drug: one in every two Australians aged 14 years or older (49.2%) was offered or had the opportunity to use tobacco in the last 12 months.

    Daily smokers were more likely than other recent smokers or non-smokers to report high or very high levels of psychological distress.

    John Mashey Says:

    Does anyone know if, in particular, candy-flavored tobacco cigarettes are saleable in Oz, i.e., like Twista lime and similar goodies whose traget audience is obvious.

    See here:

    Move to ban importation of flavoured cigarettes

    Sat Apr 19, 2008 1:17pm AEST

    State and Territory health ministers are looking to stop the importation of confectionary flavoured cigarettes into the country.

    The ministers met in Melbourne yesterday and have agreed to ban the sale of flavoured cigarettes.

    They have also agreed to ask the Customs Minister to ban their importation.

    The Tasmanian Health Minister, Lara Giddings, says while the sale of flavoured cigarettes is already banned in the state, the new moves are welcome.

    “These confectionary sugar flavoured, sweet flavoured cigarettes are really aimed at young smokers,” Ms Giddings said.

  13. May 12th, 2008 at 21:31 | #13

    The link I gave to my article cited the link to the National Drug Survey. It discussed it.

    It showed cannabis use among youth and in the community had declined as my comment above suggests. Cigarette smoking had similarly declined among youth if you read the survey.

    You are the most abusive person I have encountered in the world of blogging SJ and your accusation that I am an idiot because I accurately summarised the National Drug Survey is an instance of your totally unwarranted abuse.

  14. Ian Gould
    May 12th, 2008 at 21:53 | #14

    “It showed cannabis use among youth and in the community had declined as my comment above suggests.”

    Yes – and this has been accompanied by a massive increase in alcohol abuse.

    Somehow I doubt this was the original desired outcome of the policy in question.

  15. SJ
    May 12th, 2008 at 21:55 | #15

    Sorry, Harry, I didn’t realise it was you who had written the ABC story in question.

    It’s a funny kind of appeal to authority, though, when the authority in question is yourself, and you want to hide that fact from the casual reader.

    What a dainty little flower you are.

  16. Ian Gould
    May 12th, 2008 at 22:01 | #16

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=backyard-ethanol-brewers

    A company in the US is offering a machine that allows people to produce refined ethanol in their homes.

    I think this is a great idea – and you could probably use it to make fuel for your car too if you really wanted to.

    I’ll be more interested when they develop a version that runs on lawn clippings and left-overs.

  17. May 12th, 2008 at 22:07 | #17

    Ian Gould, There was not a massive increase in alcohol consumption. It has remained stable for a decade as the NDS points out. There has been some increase in binge drinking.

    I am not a ‘dainty flower’ SJ. I can take criticism but not insults and totally unwarranted abuse. And that’s all you dish out. There is no logic to what you say.

  18. jack strocchi
    May 12th, 2008 at 22:17 | #18

    Howards War on Drugs has by and large been a policy success and now a political winner.

    For sure the majority is turning away from the insanity and iniquity of cultural liberalism in the area of mind altering substances. You only have to look at the strong public support for Howards law and order anti-grog and dug intervention to see that.

    But that is because the political has mostly reinforced the personal and professional.

    Young people now realise that dope is for losers. I dont think young people want to grow up becoming a lard-assed, giggling idiot glued to a couch, bong and video player.

    Particularly now that companies cannot afford to employ drug-addled employees who might bring down massive law suits and Work Cover claims on their heads.

  19. SJ
    May 12th, 2008 at 22:33 | #19

    Harry Says:

    There is no logic to what you say.

    There is, in fact, a good deal of logic in what I say. The author of the ABC article indulged himself in a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. I therefore labelled the author as an idiot.

    That you now reveal yourself as the author is no fault of mine.

  20. May 12th, 2008 at 22:55 | #20

    SJ, I didn’t ‘reveal’ myself to be the author of the article. My name is printed in full under the title as you well knew with your snide, insult.

    You add to that with yet another – you are such a nasty loser.

    Keep digging deeper holes for yourself SJ.

  21. John Mashey
    May 13th, 2008 at 03:13 | #21

    re 12 SJ
    Thanks, I should have done more searches with “flavoured”, not flavored. It is of course very important to cigarette companies to hook kids early, as it is much easier to wire the brain for addiction while it is developing ing rapidly. It’s too much easier for people to quit if they started after teenage years.

    From a global warming perspective, tobacco causes deforestation according to WHO. Note that trees not only get cut for land to grow tobacco, but to burn to cure it.

  22. jquiggin
    May 13th, 2008 at 05:50 | #22

    OK, could everybody stop with the personal attacks, please.

  23. John Mashey
    May 13th, 2008 at 09:10 | #23
  24. O6
    May 13th, 2008 at 10:21 | #24

    No. 11, I read the UK report you directed us to. Very interesting. 10-12% of young people (<30y) are using cannabis regularly, despite its illegality. If the ‘war’ had been successful, wouldn’t few young people be doing so? The ‘war’ on tobacco has resulted in a reduction in the same group to about twice that of cannabis, despite tobacco being legally available along the high street in every town.
    As I wrote before, cannabis use involves smoking and its risks, plus the psychosis risk, which is documented (e.g. http://www.focus.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/5/2/270 ), so I’m merely advocating a rational review of existing failed policies, probably with gradual decriminalisation. Why fill the gaols with drongoes?

  25. May 13th, 2008 at 13:05 | #25

    IG wrote “I’ll be more interested when they develop a version that runs on lawn clippings and left-overs”.

    Actually, that has been around for a long time: the gas producer or gasifier. It’s awkward and inconvenient for ordinary car use, although workable, but it would come into its own far more in running farming and processing equipment etc., because the waste is available and you don’t have anything like the same problems from start up time or from vehicles having to carry the new equipment. Even the ash can be reused as fertiliser more easily than the original waste, apart from the nitrate loss (so, ideally, you’d cycle it through a pond with nitrogen fixing pond scum to get “green manure”). You can greatly improve the EROI (Energy Return on Investment) of making biofuels if you use something like this in the actual production side.

  26. Alphonse
    May 13th, 2008 at 14:05 | #26

    RESPONSE

    How can anyone in favour of maintaining the criminalisation of cannabis not also be in favour of criminalising alcohol? On addictivness, health, social and behavioural grounds, the preferable social drug – hands down – is cannabis.

    NEW TOPIC

    Why is it even possible to “lend” shares in a corporation? Yes, you can hire out an implement that is useful for a purpose. Yes, you can rent real estate so someone who doesn’t own it can occupy it. But, casino games aside, what possible utility or even sense is there in lending a share? Is there any benefit in it comparable to say the hedging benefit in futures trading? Is there more to it than unproductive-to-counterproductive (socially and economically speaking) wealth-leveraging for the mega rich to become giga rich in something close to a zero sum game?

  27. James Haughton
    May 13th, 2008 at 15:35 | #27

    Hi Prof Q,

    I know you don’t usually bother with the delusionist lobby any more, but they are apparently now funding a research centre at UQ to collaborate with the IPA to disprove climate change:
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/5vcab3

    What’s your University playing at here? I think this has the potential to seriously damage UQ’s reputation. Dirty money can taint anything, no matter how much the uni says their students are “independent”.

    The UQ page is here: http://www.uq.edu.au/grad-school/ipa-phd-scholarships

    More on the story here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/5om6gv

  28. Ian Gould
    May 13th, 2008 at 16:00 | #28

    Alphonse, there are two basic reasons for share-lending.

    One is when a shareholder in a company wants to increase their voting power without laying out money.

    I believe Solomon Lew was noted for doing this in Premier Investments and Coles Myer, borrowing stock before the AGM.

    The other reason is to enable short-selling. You borrow shares and sell them in the hope that you’ll be able to rebuy them at a lower price before the loan agreement expires.

  29. Ian Gould
    May 13th, 2008 at 23:43 | #29

    There was quite a bit of discussion here a year or more back about how nuclear power was the only realistic option to power desalination plants.

    It appears the NSW government has other ideas:

    “Sydney’s desalination plant will be powered by a south-west New South Wales wind farm under what Premier Morris Iemma has called Australia’s biggest green energy industry contract.

    The 63-turbine Capital Wind Farm, run by Babcock and Brown, is under construction in Bungendore and will be operating before the plant is due to come on line in 2010.

    It is estimated it will cost at least $9 million a year to power the desalination plant.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/05/13/2243677.htm?section=justin

    Assuming this doesn’t turn into yet another Iemma cock-up, that’s less than $2 per Sydney resident.

    Does anyone know how many hours per day the desal plant is expected to operate? If it only needs to operate intermittently, it could actually be a good fit for wind power.

  30. Ian Gould
    May 14th, 2008 at 02:55 | #30

    Would it be an abuse of anti-competition law to tell the major banks that so long as they engaged in anticompetive behaviour such as their lock-step interest rate rises, mergers such as Westpas and St George are off the table?

    (I must confess I’ve long hoped for the emergence of a fifth major national bank through the tie-up of St George, Suncorp and BankWest).

  31. Alphonse
    May 14th, 2008 at 22:19 | #31

    Thanks for the response on share lending, Ian.

    If your answer to my (mostly rhetorical) questions is right – which I’m pretty sure it is – why is share lending legal?

    Why do ASIC, ASX and the courts recognise share lending? Presumably they don’t recognise flying pink elephants. What’s the difference? (ok there’s no money in the latter)

    Why is share lending not simply recognised as a sham transaction, with nothing but deleterious effects on fiscal equity, corporate governance and market integrity?

    Next, someone is going to say with a straight face that the Share Lending Association, or whatever it calls itself, just needs to tighten its code of self-regulation. Then some well-meaning dupes will say give ASIC a bigger watchdog role. But isn’t it past time we simply got real and banned the whole scam?

    Does the world have to accept every fiction the shonks dream up, no matter how ridiculously far-fetched, until institutions get corrupted and marks – our super funds included – get burned?

  32. Ian Gould
    May 14th, 2008 at 22:23 | #32

    Here’s an odd little twist on the popular “biofuels are taking food out of people’s mouths” narrative.

    A major biodiesel project in Indonesia is in trouble because even at current crude oil prices, they can’t afford palm oil.

    Demand for palm oil for cooking and consumer products such as soap is rising rapidly especially in China.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aWJzKd5E4VDc

    “Palm oil prices have more than doubled in the past year, undermining the economic rationale for adding the vegetable oil to diesel even as governments worldwide mandate greater use of alternative fuels. The increased use of palm oil and other plants including sugar was meant to stretch fossil-fuel supplies.

    “The biodiesel market may shrink in 2008 as it is not viable even with subsidies,” Goldman, Sachs & Co. analysts Patrick Tiah and Nikhil Bhandari wrote in a note today. “With high prices, governments may review biofuel policies.”

    “We are postponing it indefinitely as it’s economically not feasible,” Sinar Mas’s Concepcion said in an interview in Jakarta, referring to the biofuel venture with China’s third- largest oil company. “The price of the raw material alone is already higher than the price of biodiesel.”

    Palm oil futures in Malaysia, the global benchmark, touched a record 4,486 ringgit ($1,410) a metric ton yesterday, driven by increased investment in agricultural commodities and rising demand. Palm oil is also used in foods and as a cooking oil. China is the biggest importer.

    The price of fatty acid methyl ester, the element derived from palm oil that can be added to fuels, was at a $1,270 a ton in Rotterdam yesterday, while gasoil with 0.5 percent sulfur gained 1 percent to $913.8 a ton in Singapore.

    Most of the 15 Malaysian makers of palm oil-based biodiesel have stopped operations because of losses, the Malaysian Reserve reported Feb. 27. Malaysia may revoke some biofuel licenses as the product was too expensive, Peter Chin Fah Kui, minister of plantation industries, said in December.”

    I look forward to the same people who argue that it’s unfair that India and China be allowed to increase the greenhouse gas emissions complaining about how the greedy gluttonous Asians are unfairly pushing up the price of biodiesel.

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