INDEPENDENT NEWS

PCP coalition on Barrymore's passing

Published: Wed 1 Dec 2004 01:06 PM
Barrymore's passing - joint statement by PCP coalition
Acclaimed American actor and star of "Rawhide" , John D. Barrymore, died aged 72 earlier this week.
Barrymore, father of Hollywood doyen Drew was notable for his acting and like many stars, his lifestyle.
The was growing and Barrymore found a cultural acceptance and understanding from the Flower Power 'teen' generation when in 1967, he was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia -- cigarette papers. The Judge acquitted him of being in a place where marijuana was being smoked. The judge rejected the prosecution's call to throw Barrymore into jail, and instead put him on probation.
Despite years of NZ being applauded for leading in 'social justice', would my cowboy acting hero be treated any different today. He would have been criminalised were he in possession of the 'loco weed', but not for being in place where it smoked.
But lets consider, NZ has a sin tax [excise] on cigarette rolling papers. Papers also attract GST.
Papers sold just for tobacco use fails to account for all the sales. One can, from the accurate weight of cut tobacco sales calculate by deduction, the weight of certain "herbal smoking product" consumed in New Zealand.
This data suggests a conservative 100 tonnes of cannabis is consumed here every year. OECD lifestyle data places New Zealand #1 in the world for consumption. (22.23% of surveyed population, in last year).
Clearly this makes New Zealand 'a place where cannabis is smoked'.
Barrymores Judge showed a lack of will to jail this man. Not so in New Zealand.
Here, in a case of possession and consumption of cannabis (not for sale) and use was bona fide medicine pre-sentencing defence, prosecutor and the probation reports recommended the Judgement be for community service - The New Zealand Judge used the retributive and disproportionate law of the 'cowboy' on the street; you do this and I'll do that.
This is what drug laws do. The policy framework brings the law in to disprepute creating a justice process that learns nothing. It rejects best practice.
Barrymore had an understanding of the ethos of the 'rawhide' cowboy. Not perfect, but capable of a good turn, of doing the right thing. He couldn't didnt kick a dog when it was down but could shoot a horse out of respect for its humanity. The storybook cowboy was, as it were a good guy, with a gun. When you hurt somebody, you have an obligation, you have to make it right. If you havent, you owe no one. Cowboy justice. No victim, no offender.
Once Barrymore was implicated in drugs his career was curtailed. No jail required. Such is the prejudice. Between his crime and his death. he lived with a conviction for a tissue offence. It defined him.
(In May 2002 John's namesake John Barrymore III was "home invaded" and beaten by teen-agers allegedly trying to steal his medpot stash, yet face charges as a victim - see cannabisnews.com: Barrymore Could Face Marijuana Charges)
I am reminded of a comment by a RAND thinktank consultant Peter Reuter, "The scandal lies in the fact that $100 billion of enforcement money had to be spent before the drug czar's office decided that it was time to develop an agenda for assessing the effectiveness of toughness."
We in New Zealand, despite inquiry after inquiry, are yet to visit the highly indicated cost benefit analysis of our cannabis policy.
While 'dehumanised' incarcerated kiwi medpot consumer Neville Yates marks time, 110 million Americans have access to medicinal cannabis. We take from kiwi's where cannabis is smoked, .their pipe, their medicine, and their liberty to uphold 'state rights' and an outdated international convention.
So John, you died just as the home of the drug war talked about this in the Supreme Court - its all so Californian. vs Washington, so "we the people' wildwest justice.
No victim, No offence. No injustice.
Sorry to loose you John, roll up in peace.
Blair Anderson, Christchurch, N.Z.

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