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News (Media Awareness Project) - Australia: Column: Children Are Growing Up In An Increasingly
Title:Australia: Column: Children Are Growing Up In An Increasingly
Published On:2011-12-18
Source:Daily Telegraph (Australia)
Fetched On:2011-12-18 06:01:24

THE expulsion of three Year 8 boys from one of Australia's most
prestigious schools, Cranbrook, for allegedly selling marijuana to
classmates should ring warning bells.

Year 8 students, after all, are only 13 or 14 years old, and cannabis
use is on the increase for the first time in a decade.

Instead, we have some counsellors and other people in authority
shrugging their shoulders, saying boys will be boys and it's normal to

Well it's not OK and it's about time grown-ups acted like grown-ups
instead of overgrown teenagers with short-term memory problems.

The idea that it's inevitable to experiment with illicit drugs does
children a grave disservice.

It is, in effect, sanctioning drug use, giving children the green
light and encouraging more of them to experiment.

There will always be children who will try drugs, but society's goal
should be to minimise their number. That's the kind of harm
minimisation that makes sense.

Instead, our children are growing up in a nudge-nudge, wink-wink world
in which marijuana is illegal but our increasingly permissive society
tacitly encourages its use.

We even had a headline in the Wentworth Courier last week about
Cranbrook's drug expulsions: "School defends zero tolerance policy".
Why should the school be on the defensive?

Short of home-schooling and becoming hermits, parents can do only so
much to counter the culture.

When a 14-year-old Australian boy was arrested in Bali in October for
buying marijuana from a street dealer, the dominant response from our
political leaders and the media was outrage, not that a boy so young
was in the habit of buying drugs and was, as he told the court,
addicted to marijuana.

No, the outrage was that the Indonesian authorities took the offence
seriously. In the boy's native NSW Central Coast, if police had
bothered to arrest him, they would have let him off with a caution.
And if they hadn't, the officers likely would have been castigated by
a laissez-faire magistrate for wasting court time.

We had the unedifying spectacle of Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd
competing to see who could pander most to the "Bali boy" after he was
arrested, not once expressing disapproval for his behaviour as
aberrant and loathsome, but treating him like an innocent victim of
Indonesia's punitive, out-of-touch "legal regime", as Rudd styled it.

Pity there isn't more of that Indonesian backbone back home; then the
Bali boy might never have been in such a pickle.

We also had opportunistic drug legalisation advocates claiming his
arrest proved the war on drugs was a failure. No, the failure is the
progressives' harm minimisation regime in Australia which refuses to
declare war on drugs. Instead it sends mixed signals to young people
at a time when they need firm boundaries.

As it turned out, the Indonesians treated the Bali boy with more
respect and compassion than anyone in Australia, teaching him a lesson
he should never forget.

But now he's home free for Christmas in his hessian-clad Morriset Park
home, it seems it's a lesson the rest of us won't heed.

Even though research keeps mounting of the potentially catastrophic
psychological effects of marijuana, in psychosis, schizophrenia, and
brain damage, the drug has become popular again after a decade in decline.

The latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report, released in
July found the proportion of Australians aged 14 or older who recently
had used cannabis had leaped from 9.1 per cent in 2007 to 10.3 per
cent in 2010. New research in the US identifies the same trend, with
marijuana use up sharply, for the fourth year straight. It is now at a
30-year peak among Year 12 students there, with one in five year 8
students having recently smoked pot.

What makes these figures so alarming is that they defy the trend of
the past decade, during which cannabis use had fallen markedly. In
1998, 18 per cent of Australians over 13 had recently smoked pot. That
dropped to 13 per cent in 2001, and plummeted to nine per cent in 2007.

Now that it has spiked up, researchers are finding that children's
"perceived risk" of marijuana has fallen. In fact, they disapprove
more of smoking cigarettes that pulling on a bong.

The Gillard government is quite happy to intervene and regulate to a
ridiculous extent practices that are legal and less harmful such as
smoking, drinking and gambling.

Yet when it comes to illicit drugs, they're all softly softly, turn a
blind eye and get the law out of it.

You can be as judgmental, punitive and discriminatory as you like to
poor, hounded smokers huddled around office buildings, but when it
comes to 14-year-old potheads, we are supposed to be open-minded and

It's no coincidence that the decline in marijuana use corresponded to
the Howard government's tough on drugs strategy.

Now anyone who disapproves of illicit drug use is accused of "Moral
panic". Well, panic away. It's time for a new scare campaign.
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