GREENS’ RUS­SIAN ROULETTE

Herald Sun - - OPINION - JEFF KEN­NETT JEFF KEN­NETT IS A FOR­MER PREMIER OF VIC­TO­RIA

THE Greens in an­nounc­ing their pol­icy to le­galise cannabis are putting at risk the good health of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of young Aus­tralians. I ac­cept the use of drugs is un­ac­cept­ably high, and that cannabis it­self is at the milder end of drugs that are avail­able to­day.

But hav­ing heard Greens leader Richard Di Natale ex­plain his pol­icy, he was fun­da­men­tally say­ing: “We have lost the war on drugs, let’s try some­thing dif­fer­ent”.

Sadly, there is no guar­an­tee that by try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent, while we might re­duce the in­come of the ped­dlers of cannabis, there is no ev­i­dence that the Greens’ ex­per­i­ment would not lead to more peo­ple hav­ing men­tal health is­sues.

To me that is play­ing Rus­sian roulette with other peo­ple’s health. That is un­ac­cept­able.

For some young peo­ple, with de­vel­op­ing and ma­tur­ing brains any use of cannabis might have se­ri­ous long-term ef­fects.

We know that long-time users of cannabis are se­ri­ously at risk of in­creased lev­els of psy­chosis.

I have seen too many peo­ple over the past 20 years whose lives have been ad­versely af­fected by cannabis to want to see the drug treated as a nor­mal con­sump­tion item. It is not, and its use for so many lead to the con­sump­tion of other drugs which are more po­tent and deadly.

There are, as we know, no guar­an­tees in life. The first re­spon­si­bil­ity for ed­u­cat­ing our chil­dren lies with par­ents. But sadly, even the best of fam­i­lies, de­fined by their val­ues not their wealth, have chil­dren spin­ning out and ex­per­i­ment­ing with drugs.

As you have heard me ex­press many times, my axis of evil that con­trib­utes to men­tal ill­ness: al­co­hol, drugs and de­pres­sive ill­nesses.

We of­ten do not know where some­one en­ters the axis as a re­sult of al­co­hol, or drugs or de­pres­sive ill­nesses.

Suf­fice to say that cre­at­ing the im­pres­sion pub­licly that it is all right to take cannabis is pub­licly ac­cept­able, is in my opin­ion the wrong mes­sage.

It is as if the Greens are at­tempt­ing to be fash­ion­able rather than re­spon­si­ble.

There is a new ad­di­tive be­ing put in other drugs that has lifted the deaths from drugs in Canada to fright­en­ing new lev­els. The drug is called Ven­tanol. It al­legedly is com­ing out of China and it is 10 times more po­tent than heroin.

The point I am try­ing to make, is I have no doubt the ped­dlers of these drug prod­ucts will al­ways be in­vent­ing new con­coc­tions.

My fear is that by le­gal­is­ing cannabis, mar­i­juana, we are only risk­ing more peo­ple ex­per­i­ment­ing with drugs and be­ing led to more se­ri­ous forms of such prod­ucts. The Greens’ pol­icy is high risk. There are no cer­tain­ties from the re­sult of such an ex­per­i­ment, no guar­an­tees there will be less us­age by com­mu­nity mem­bers or fewer dele­te­ri­ous side ef­fects, but let’s try it any­way.

I fear the re­verse will oc­cur. That the use of mar­i­juana will in­crease, the rates of men­tal ill­nesses will in­crease, and any num­ber of re­sul­tant ac­tiv­i­ties.

It is for these rea­sons that I have for so long sup­ported the es­tab­lish­ment of the med­i­cally su­per­vised in­ject­ing fa­cil­ity.

I do not want to see peo­ple dy­ing be­cause of their habit. I want as best we can to re­ha­bil­i­tate as many as pos­si­ble.

The last thing I want is to see is the num­ber of peo­ple be­com­ing drug users, de­pen­dent on drugs, their men­tal ca­pac­ity re­duced, or their lives put at risk, in­crease.

Mine is not a Lib­eral view, or a con­ser­va­tive one, but one borne out of many ex­pe­ri­ences over the past 20 years.

Just ask many par­ents of chil­dren who have died be­cause of a drug over­dose where their chil­dren’s jour­ney started?

For some young peo­ple, with de­vel­op­ing and ma­tur­ing brains any use of cannabis might have se­ri­ous long-term ef­fects

Or those par­ents why their child’s brain has been fried or sub­stan­tially re­duced in ca­pac­ity over time what was the start­ing point of that jour­ney.

Sadly, for many it was ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with mar­i­juana that led to greater use and then to other drugs.

Yes, we must do bet­ter, but it should be by ed­u­ca­tion of our com­mu­nity, in par­tic­u­lar our young, greater sur­veil­lance of those who pro­duce or im­port the drug, and mas­sive penal­ties for those caught and con­victed.

Just as I op­pose the ad­ver­tis­ing and pro­mo­tion of sports bet­ting be­cause of the mes­sage it sends to young peo­ple, so do I op­pose the le­gal­i­sa­tion of mar­i­juana be­cause of the mes­sage it will send.

I am not op­posed to gam­bling as it is a choice that should be avail­able to adults, but I am strongly op­posed to the pro­mo­tion of gam­bling prod­ucts that sug­gest a per­son’s fu­ture will in some way be deter­mined by how they gam­ble.

Mes­sages are im­por­tant, they cre­ate the com­mu­nity stan­dard.

Di Natale might to some de­gree be right that we are fight­ing a tough fight on drugs. In that case, we need to do bet­ter. All of us.

The hu­man cost is un­ac­cept­able, the fi­nan­cial cost to the com­mu­nity huge.

But ed­u­ca­tion at home and in the com­mu­nity is the only an­swer.

It will never elim­i­nate the risk en­tirely, but play­ing Rus­sian roulette is no so­lu­tion at all.

Have a good day.

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