Dr Garrett McGovern, @AddictionsPMC: a study in legalisation logic

I argue with many dim-witted cannabis enthusiasts on Twitter, but in a discussion yesterday my adversary reached new depths of ignorance, made stranger by his apparent abundance of expertise.

The person is Dublin-based Dr Garrett McGovern, @AddictionsPMC. His profile reads:

Sensible drug policies. E-cig advocate. MB BCh, BAO (T.C.D.); MSc.(Clinical Addiction, King’s College London); CISAM (Addiction Medicine)  

That last hashtag is, as far as I can tell, his only redeeming feature. As one would expect from a man who has built a career on the pitiful fantasy of ‘addiction’, he supports the legalisation of cannabis.

I happened upon him through Niamh Eastwood, an even soppier drugs legalisation advocate, and director of Release, a legalisation pressure group. I follow her to keep abreast of legalisation trends and tactics, and to challenge them as and when I feel like it.

Ms Eastwood has long since stopped replying to my messages, having fled when I asked her to cite a single case of somebody in the UK being imprisoned for drugs possession. Dr McGovern, though, lasted a bit longer. The discussion went as follows.

Dr McGovern: ‘Decriminalisation and legalisation are very different entities. Criminalising ppl who use drugs causes stigma, is inhumane and doesn’t deter drug use anyway. I can’t understand how anybody would support it.’

Me: ‘If people break a known law they ‘criminalise’ themselves. We don’t ‘criminalise’ murderers, burglars and rapists. They choose to break the law, are arrested and prosecuted, and become criminals. Same with drug users, except they are, in fact, rarely arrested.’

Dr McGovern: ‘1. Not true. Drug users are regularly arrested. 2. That’s the while point. Drug use shouldn’t be a crime. Alcohol and tobacco use aren’t.’

Me: ‘Arrested maybe, but not regularly. According to Norman Lamb, 10,000 cannabis smokers a year are prosecuted, which represents less than 1% of smokers. None goes to prison, even though cannabis is a prime factor in countless acts of suicide and psychopathic violence.’

Dr McGovern: ‘If cannabis is as bad as you say should we not be regulating the drug?’

Me: ‘That would do nothing except make Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco very rich. ‘Regulated’ cigarettes cause cancer. ‘Regulated’ cannabis causes mental illness, and mentally ill people are a danger to themselves and others, as my site shows.’

Dr McGovern: ‘I think you’ll find unregulated tobacco causes cancer. If tobacco and alcohol were banned tomorrow there would be blood on the streets. Unimaginable harm and chaos at every level. We don’t have regulated cannabis so your statement is untrue.’

Me: ‘Er, I think you’ll find ‘regulated’ packages of cigarettes bear messages such as ‘Smoking kills’ and ‘Smoking causes cancer’. They have ‘regulated’ cannabis is California and Colorado and it’s causing all sorts of misery.’

Dr McGovern: ‘Misery? If this is misery I’ll take misery.’

coloradocannabisprosecutions

It’s this astonishing image that I’d like to focus on (though Dr McGovern’s apparent belief that ‘regulated’ cigarettes don’t cause cancer also deserves more scrutiny). It comes from this article by ‘Transform’, another legalisation pressure group: ‘CANNABIS REGULATION IN COLORADO: EARLY EVIDENCE DEFIES THE CRITICS.’

As I told Dr McGovern, this chart is risible. All crime is caused by law. If you eliminate a law, it follows that fewer people are arrested for breaking that law. This steep drop in prosecutions for cannabis offences is, therefore, nothing to be proud of.

What is remarkable is that even two years after legalisation came into effect, nearly 2000 people were still prosecuted for cannabis possession. This is presumably for having more than the legally permitted total of one ounce, or for being under the age of 21, or both. The question is, do people like Dr McGovern and Ms Eastwood have a moral objection to these people being arrested and prosecuted (or ‘criminalised’, as they would put it)? Should the maximum legal limit of possession be increased, and the legal minimum age dropped? Will these totals be pushed, respectively, higher and higher, and lower and lower, until we have 12-year-olds carrying several pounds of marijuana?

Dr McGovern, you won’t be surprised to learn, has run away from our discussion, back to his fantasy world of ‘addiction’, a ‘war’ on drugs that ‘criminalises’ hapless users and ‘regulated’ cannabis enabling ‘harm reduction’.

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