Apparently this course (Alcohol, Drugs, and Crime CRIM216*) has an online element, and there's a forum been set up where people are already introducing themselves, which is quite nice.
I had no clue until I stumbled across him on Twitter, when the NZ Drug Foundation retweeted something he said. Turns out he's been working in the field for a very long time and for some reason has chosen Victoria University as his new home. He was based in England but must have been considering moving to New Zealand when the Law Commission was reviewing the Misuse of Drugs Act, because he was active in the discussions on their Talklaw site.
Sidenote: I didn't realise this till yesterday, when a journalist who'd read Tenchinage's post about the Scientologists on DrugR contacted me. Apparently she's been researching the Scientology-based drug programmes and was interested in the bit about Narconon as coercive rehab in prisons, but the TalkLaw site was no longer available, and she wanted to know if I could fill her in on what was said. I went one better and found her a cache. And there, lo and behold, is Julian Buchanan, saying intelligent stuff.
Yes, that Kevin Owen guy really will make your head explode if you read too much of him. I'd say don't bother.
Anyway, so when I ran across Julian Buchanan on Twitter, I followed him too. Turns out he does an aggregate called Drugs, Society and Human Rights", gathering together interesting snippets on drugs and drug policy, which I also subscribe to. Handy dude to know, right?
Incidentally, this podcast is very cool - not only in content but in delivery.
I also had a minor disagreement with him over wastewater testing for metabolic 'leftovers' of drug use. I believe this would be a reasonably accurate way of measuring how much of each drug is being used on any given, say, weekend - which would overcome some of the selection bias issues with the current methods of measuring drug use. The reason I think this would be a good thing is that without accurate figures on drug use vs drug harm, we can't draw particularly accurate conclusions about the harm that comes from drugs. I think removing the human element (lying, exaggerating, extrapolating, evading, justifying, rationalising, avoiding participation, self-selection, etc) from the measurement of drug use and harm would lead to a much more accurate picture of what harms are being seen when what levels of what drugs are being used.
He disagrees, and believes that the SHORE surveys provide sufficient data, and (if I read him right) that monitoring of wastewater is a surveillance technique that is likely to cause more harm, I suspect through targeting of particular areas/populations for policing. One problem I have with that is that I've participated in the SHORE surveys and they suffer quite badly from selection bias, along with the standardisation of the questions making it difficult to give truly accurate answers. I may have given feedback to the interviewers about this when I did them. ;-)
Twitter being Twitter, the discussion didn't come to a conclusion. I can see both sides, but was frustrated by the medium and then life happened and I didn't pursue it. Also, "OHAI I am a random stranger from Twitter and you are a drug policy expert of decades, by the way I disagree with you now let's have a big discussion about it" isn't the way I want to introduce myself to someone. And since all that happened before I signed up for this course and discovered he's the lecturer, I'm glad I didn't.
Maybe I'll get a chance to continue the discussion as part of the course. I expect he's got some good reasons for seeing the wastewater thing in that light and I'd like to know what they are from someone who's been in the field for a long time.
So what that adds up to is that I'm quite excited about studying under this guy. I've been at it coming up 5 years and this is the first course I'm doing that's specifically focused in my area. I have a reading list of books that I'll probably actually buy, even! O.o
Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for my mark on the Climate Change course. I looked at the Vic website 'exam results' section this morning and apparently they often don't get posted till after all exams are over, which means chances are I may have to wait till the 25th of this month to find out how I did. Which is balls if you're Instant Gratification Girl. ;-/
And in completely non-school news, last night I made satay with green vegetables. Not only was it tasty, it was pretty! But you'll just have to imagine it because a) the Youth of Today scoffed the lot in the middle of the night, and b) no fricking camera. Want.Camera.Now.
* I'm told that next year they may be offering a drug policy-specific 300 level course. By which time I'll have completed my degree. Damn. I guess I could go back and do one course if I really wanted to - doing a 300 level Crim paper would satisfy the requirements for a double major - but I am really kind of over study right now. I may feel differently later.