Friday, 5 June 2009

Nice people take drugs

I see there's a new campaign going about to decriminalise and destigmatize drugs.

One in three adults in the UK have taken them, as have the last three US presidents, so it's time to remove the stigma around drugs, and talk openly towards more effective, safer policy.

OK, I'm in the minority that has never experimented with recreational chemicals and my Puritan upbringing (really!) means that I don't really want, nor would I be thrilled to find out my daughter was a crackhead.

But the reality of it is that people will do drugs, no matter how many earnest Daily Mail campaigns there are to crack down on drugs. By decriminalising drugs and taxing them for their external costs to the rest of the world, we can make it safer and cheaper for everyone.

Imagine: instead of spending millions on pointless drug busts, we instead take millions, probably billions in tax which could fund rehabilitation programs for people who want to get off drugs or free drugs for people who are addicted but can't afford them (so they wouldn't be mugging or stealing to fund their habit) and possibly fund some kind of "free" insurance for people who are victims of drug-related whatever. Drugs could also be made to consistent standards, which would alleviate the problems of people killing themselves from ingesting whatever they cut the drugs with.

I'm sure I'm being idealistic here, and I am equally sure that in reality, not all the problems would go away, but I am certain that, as in Portugal's case, things would get better and not worse:

[R]ight-wing groups predicted disaster when the laws were liberalised, and this simply did not happen. Drug use in many categories decreased, and while it increased in some areas (notably cannabis), these increases were far too small to offset the overall trend, which has been downwards. Heroin was a major problem, along with the transmission of HIV through dirty needles, but the rates of both heroin use and HIV infection in drug users have decreased.


Sambo said...

I can remember having the same debate in 1968 and nothing happened then, or since, to improve things.
History tells us that prohibition didn't/doesn't work but no politician in this country has the balls to admit it.

Angry Exile said...

Out of interest have you seen the Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episode on drug legalisation? It's probably on YouTube somewhere. Convincing stuff, and again from someone who doesn't do any drugs at all, not even booze and ciggies. Should be required viewing for any tabloid editor, followed by a big glass of psychedelic cactus juice.

Mr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr said...

And while we're at it, release all prisoners held for solely drug related offences.

That's about 20% of the prison population released in one go (saving about 30K / prisoner / year) and will also mean that judges can begin handing down more realistic sentences for violent crimes

The Penguin said...

Too many on the anti-drugs gravy train making a nice living, as well as all the fucking drugs dealers who like the status quo, and the police who use it as a rationale for ever bigger budgets and more toys.

The Penguin

RayD said...

I'm sick and tired of drugs being a political football. I don't care what the solution is, I just want those qualified to do so to figure what strategy best minimises the effect on society of recreational drug use and then implement the bastard. There should be no reference to silly old women of either gender, blue haired or otherwise. And anybody starting to say "Sends the wrong mes..." should be summarily executed by the political cliche police.

AntiCitizenOne said...

We should ban Gateway regulation leading to even less liberty.

Stan said...

The reality is that people will steal, rape and murder too - should we decriminalise those offences?

If we did legalise drug use how would that help? Addicts would still need their fix and the nature of the addiction means they will steal to fund it. Taxing a product will not make it cheaper so the likelihood is that the costs will be higher not lower. We're not Portugal - they have different attitudes to legal drugs such as alcohol and cigarettes and, consequently, fewer problems than we do. There is no evidence to suggest that a change in our policy will improve things, although there is evidence to suggest that it will make things worse - the downgrading of cannabis and the subsequent explosion in mental health issues caused by cannabis demonstrates that.

Just as we're not Portugal, we're not Singapore either, but their approach to illegal drugs suggests there is more to be gained if the focus was on demand rather than supply but that would mean prosecuting and jailing vast swathes of the entertainment and media industries.

Finally, before anyone says that their drug use "doesn't harm anyone" - you're wrong. People, including children, die every day to bring you your illegal drug of choice. Would that improve if you legalised it? Maybe, but seeing how people, including kids, die every day to bring us legal cheap goods from the third world I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Treat drug like coffee - let the producers export it legally. Otherwise the the only people to make any money are the cartels.

Nobody's going to stop using drugs just because it's illegal. You're never going to be able to control a black-market.

Legalise the lot. Tax it to buggery if you must.

SteveShark said...

Agree with you 100% - it makes perfect sense to me.
Top post - and your later one.