Saturday, 3 July 2010

Legalise it!

I grew up in a much more socially conservative time than we have today. Pot was the work of the devil, not something normal people used to relax. Anything harder than that was automatically perceived as suicide with a side order of hell on earth.

And certainly, my early encounters with "users" did little to disabuse me of the idea that drugs were bad, m'kay?

But it was subsequent encounters with people who drank that made me start to question my blindly-held views. Some people who drink become more sociable, some people shut up, some people become loud and some become utter cuntstains when they've had a couple. And so on.

I also noticed that some people appeared to be desperate for a drink by the time they got home and some people could take it or leave it.

"Maybe," I thought, "maybe drugs affect different people in different ways? Maybe they're not automatically a bad thing for every single person who uses them?"

(This was all in the days before I discovered libertarianism, when my gut reaction to drugs is "who cares?" OK, it's a bit more nuanced than that, but not much.)

But being politically and socially conservative from a very early age, I started out fully supporting stupid ideas like "war on drugs" and hefty criminalisation.

Consequently, it was a big leap of faith for me when faced with arguments of legalisation. But the libertarian idea that it's your own body to do with as you will is pretty fundamental. The idea that someone who isn't living your life and doesn't have your experiences is also someone who is telling you what is best for you is, after all, pretty fucking cheeky, to say the least.

I guess for me the biggest problem with legalisation in the current version of society is that the "left hand" of rights is not matched by an equivalent "right hand" of responsibility.

So, in situations like this, we have the rather insane situation where someone has a) taken illegal substances and b) is not responsible for the consequences of this:

A DRUG addict whose amphetamine habit gave him kidney stones received £27,000 in compensation because his condition was not treated properly in prison, a Yorkshire police officer has revealed.

I'm not entirely clear why the prison service has a particular duty of care to support something brought on by someone's personal decisions. I suspect that the relatively low award reflects the judge's unease in this case.

He [the policeman] learned of the compensation award when the criminal was arrested for possessing £70 worth of amphetamines earlier this year.

Why are we arresting someone for possessing £70 worth of amphetamines? Really? is there not something better the police can be doing than arresting someone for wanting to get off his tits?

Are there not prison places that could be better used keeping violent scumbags off the street?

Would we not be better off legalising drugs, deregulating them and allowing big pharma (and small pharma) to legally flood the market with cheap, high quality drugs? They could be taxed like booze to cater for externalities. People who wanted drugs would not be ingesting unknown mixers like dog shit or talcum powder or Vim -- the sorts of substance that often cause more damage than the drug itself. Prices would be lower, so a great deal of any consequent property crime would be nullified. Plus, in Portugal, where they have completely decriminalised all recreational drugs, drug use has actually dropped slightly.

As our policeman says without a trace of irony:

the case made him "wonder where our priorities lie".

This whole situation is completely fucked up:
  • The guy takes drugs -- A personal choice.
  • Drugs are illegal -- Why? There is no upside to the war on drugs.
  • He gets arrested for a piffling offence -- Why? What an enormous waste of taxpayer money, from the policing cost to the jail cost PLUS all this welfare and compensation crap!
  • He goes to prison -- for wanting to get off his tits. Insane.
  • He has a condition brought on by his personal choice -- But he doesn't have to bear the consequences of that decision, taxpayers do!
  • He is on benefits -- Why am I paying to keep someone in drugs so he can be off his tits on my money, rather than on his own fucking money?

It's all completely fucking wrong.


Damo Mackerel said...

Yeah, so true. There's a lot of things we are getting wrong.

Here's a good book to download. Read the chapter on drug usage.

Mark Wadsworth said...

"Would we not be better off legalising drugs, deregulating them and allowing big pharma (and small pharma) to legally flood the market with cheap, high quality drugs? They could be taxed like booze to cater for externalities."

Yes of course, I thought everybody knew that?

davidncl said...

I was driven to opposing controls on drugs because I believed very strongly that to state had no business (no right in fact) in meddling in markets of any kind in any way. I knew that all interventions in markets have harmful effects. So state controls on what drugs can be bought or sold by who must also have harmful effects. Then I went looking for the harm. That pretty much made my mind up.

Such harm isn't limited to the controls on recreation drugs, but also logically applies to medical drugs such as beta-blockers. David Friedman (son of Milton) suggests that the FDA's intervention which prevented the sale of beta-blockers (available here and in Europe) for several years resulted in a hundred thousand deaths.

Much of the actual harm incurred by drug addicts is the result of the absence of a free market in drugs which would allow competition on quality, price and the building of reputation for such by drug dealers.

When high street chemists last sold cocaine over the counter they didn't engage in turf wars with drive by shootings and what not either.

A war on drugs is that last thing anyone needs. All wars are bad but one out of it's mind on drugs is really nuts.

Anonymous said...

Did not know that about Portugal.
I would consider emigrating, if only I could speak the lingo...

Agree completely with your views - as an occassional dabbler, I resent that I risk getting my collar felt for partaking in something, out of my own funds, that harms nobody except me. But then, when drugs policy is set by the hacks at The Sun et al, as witnessed by the recent fuckwittery over Mephedrone, rather than by expert advice there will be no change.

Sticks in my throat too that if you are wealthy enough, a visit to an open minded private doctor can ensure you a steady supply of most medical grade substances you might desire.

Jill said...

Agreed. We all tend to talk about such things from our own experience, so it's quite good to see an uninterested perspective. Personally, I'm all for full legalisation and Pigovian taxes. It *is* a risky activity and so - presuming your libertarian nirvana never comes to pass and we are still in a country with a universal state health system - some kind of "insurance" is probably best for those who partake. Pay your levy as a duty at the point of purchase, and should you be a casualty, no pompous twat of a doctor can tell you that you're taking up an unfair amount of resources.

I took recreational drugs - everything except heroin - every weekend for about fifteen years. I've never been out of work, and I never had so much as a single Monday morning off work no matter how wasted I'd been at the weekend. And I certainly never wanted/felt the need for drugs outside of a club/party situation. In fact, I really only stopped because I had children, and you can't really be risking prison once you're responsible for wee ones. It's a bummer because I hate alcohol. I fall asleep over the second glass of wine and get raging hangovers.

John Demetriou said...

Excellent article!

The war on drugs is an abject failure, insisted upon all over the world by the US government, because it is an industry and foreign policy tool. Simple as that.

It is obviously a total disaster, and the people who lose are, well, the people.

Governments won't consider legalisation, even though the facts are there to show that it is the best possible way forward.

Shame on government everywhere.

nbc said...

I fall asleep over the second glass of wine

That sounds like rohypnol...

John Demetriou said...

Go away, fake Demetriou. Cunt.


Mama Peperbarmi said...

Ooooo that nasty fake John Demoderatriou gives me the heebeejeeebee`s.

I had a little puff in the 30`s,I got the giggles *giggle*.

English Viking said...

Disagree, I'm afraid.

The reason, as far as I can see, that these type of drugs are banned is because there is an extremely high likelihood that the users will damage themselves severely (I guess that's up to them, but do we really want to live in a society that allows stupid children to kill themselves?) but more importantly, the users damage other people. Their spouses, their parents, their children, even complete strangers. When people are spaced on certain types of drugs, e.g. crystal meth, they can be violent in the extreme. Legalising this crap will lead to devastating consequences, to which libertarians will say ''if you hurt someone other than yourself, then you will be dealt with by the law''. That's fine and dandy, until your daughter is raped by someone who was off his face on PCP.

PS The argument for legalising and therefore taxing these substances is fallacious. The more you tax it, the more the barons will undercut it and thereby increase their market, just like ciggies from Romania.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

Two things: how different is it being raped by someone who is stone cold sober compared to being raped by someone off his face from PCP? This is just alarmist claptrap.

And: the whole point of taxing is that you need to find a balance between it being worth the effort to smuggle it and achieving the desired Pigou effect. We heavily overtax our Pigovian taxes now, which is why smuggling is worth doing.

In a more libertarian or even AnCap society, the state would do a lot less and so the Pigovian taxes could be much lower, because they wouldn't be propping up ludicrous levels of government spend, they'd simply be catering for the externality.

Anonymous said...

'but do we really want to live in a society that allows stupid children to kill themselves'

so what do you do to avoid that ? you stop them going out to play for starters, climbing trees, going off on jaunts and the like, ban it all. then when they get older, you will have to ban more stuff to the point where we have what we have now. take away that skateboard, that game, that plane. surfing ? far too dangerous, skiing, the same etc etc etc.

'but more importantly, the users damage other people. Their spouses, their parents, their children, even complete strangers.'

then, logically you would have to ban everything, including booze that could lead to such. most of it is already. ie guns, guns kill people hence ban them. cars kill people hence they must be banned. carrying knifes is banned, has that reduced knife crime ? foxes eat babies hence we must now kill them all, it's gone beyond stupid.

'Legalising this crap will lead to devastating consequences, '

such as ? could you really see yourself becoming a violent addled meth user simply because such has been made legal in the sense you can buy it in its regulated and taxed form or you won't go to prison for five or ten years if you use it? seriously, can you see yourself becoming a meth user if it were so ? do you beat your wife and kids when you've had too much, if you were allowed a pocket knife would you slash the next person you see whose face you don't like ?

'The more you tax it, the more the barons will undercut it and thereby increase their market, just like ciggies from Romania.

the important bit in that sentence is 'The more you tax it', -government taking the piss and collecting more and more money wherever it can, so it can trough more, waste more and never be held accountable., it's not their money you see and they are in the unique situation where they can sit all day working out how to milk the populace, for more and more and more of the money they go out to earn. joe public in other words, and joe public then at some point turns around and says fuck this for a lark, other countries have fags that are not taxed to death i'll have some of that instead. your last point actually shows that once something is taxed it becomes the milking grounds of a government which has completely forgotten that it's role is to serve.

Anonymous said...

Some hopes, they are doing their best to wipe out the remaining legal ones.

Shug Niggurath said...

Unfortunately we live in a society that's so far in thrall to a large stat they're currently looking at banning foods that might make you fat if you eat them by the hundredweight. So I think even a relaxation on drugs policy is a pipe dream.

Shug Niggurath said...

There's also an argument that covers 'thinking of thee children' on legalisation of drugs.

Namely that the number of drug dealers will be massively reduced and keeping usage within legal age limits will be be pretty good.

I bought my first lump of hash at 12 and was well versed in most street drugs of the time way before 16. Highly unlikely that could have happened if they were legal.

Peperbarmi said...

They have to have a war on something, and drugs are the perfect excuse,that gives them a mandate to arm the police to the teeth and pry and spy into our lives.

They completely ignore the lessons of prohibition,that enriched the likes of Al Capone.

They will never legalise drugs, ever,too many people are brainwashed and the righteous would never allow it.

John R said...

Excellent article.

There are really no good reasons for keeping up the ridiculous position on the refusal to legalise recreational drugs. Your article makes the case for why we should follow Portugal's example. I believe (in legal terms) they have moved minor usage into either a social or medical category and now only use the courts for major dealing offences. But most drugs are now sold legally so the government now gets its tax rake-off, there are lots of new small businesses opening up to cater for the trade. Insurance premiums in "bad" areas have dropped and property prices have risen as the criminal culture has been removed/legalised. Society and the individual are better off - what's not to like?

I far as I can see there's no benefit to anyone, other than organised crime, in trying to clamp down on folk wishing to take one drug or another. As long as we keep the (sensible) laws in place about not driving, "operating heavy machinery" or doing anything similar while off your head, then I say...fill your boots, have a good time. How is this any different from have a beer or two at home when you fancy it, but not tear-arsing around in your penis extension while totally rat-arsed?

Of course the police will oppose this 'cos it will hit their "war" budgets and stop the easy pickings of minor posesssion. They'll have to go after real criminals instead. Similarly the politicians, courts and newspapers 'cos they love the "tough on drugs" image, despite the fact it does bugger-all to change anything. The politicos will be especially pissed as it reduces their control over your every waking moment...we can't have that now, can we?

But the crime gangs will be the really big losers. At a stroke their businesses will be trashed - couldnt happen to a nicer bunch.

All-in-all there really are no bad outcomes here - which is why it will never happen of course.

Dr Evil said...

Excellent post indeed. The usual things have come up from the prohibitionists again it seems, but yourself and others have handled. I wrote something on these points after reading all of this.

English Viking said...

Some seem to have either misinterpreted my comments or else they are just being obtuse.

@Obnoxio, there is no difference to the rape victim whether the rapist is stoned or not. The difference will be in the amount of violence and rapes that are committed by people who are out of control on Meth or PCP, which I believe will increase proportional to the increase in users. The genie is out of the bottle (forgive the pun) on alcohol, but I think you would have to agree that while a great many people enjoy a drink and cause no harm, there are simply huge numbers of people who abuse it and cause no end of trouble. Increasing the amount of substances that one can get mashed on and develop a dependency to boot appears to me to be a recipe for disaster.


I have not suggested a ban on anything, I suggest that we do not legalise certain crimes to lower crime figures.

Painting me as a 'think of the cheeldren' idiot is not going to work. They can climb all the trees they like, I just dont want them smacked out and dying because of their own immaturity, or attacked by others who are in a drug addled condition.

With regard to the taxation thing, since when has the Gov ever taxed anything sensibly? Their will always be a market for illegal supplies.

This whole Libertarianism things seems to me to be a bit like a child, stamping his feet and wailing that he will not be told what to do, when he knows full well that he will.