Note: See the base of this blog post for links to other external sites with interesting content on this topic.
I could easily spend the entire day writing a post about this headline statement.
In fact, I could probably consume the next year of my life researching and justifying a case for a radical rethink of the way we deal with drugs – both legal and illegal – in our society. But that will have to wait for another life time.
What I do know is that current policy is not working. The war on drugs is being lost every day. For me it’s a matter of simple logic. You can blame capitalism, market forces and the human condition.
If enough people want something badly enough, there is always going to be a healthy market which someone somewhere is going to try and serve in the name of making money.
Put simply, I’d rather that money was collected by the Exchequer (the tax man, in simple parlance) and put to good use, if you’re content to call government spending a good use, than lining the pockets of the few; a group of rich criminals who control and expand their international organised crime empires on the back of mass consumption of illegal substances. Even if you’re not happy with the term good use for government spending, the government does considerably better things with the money than organised crime – well, at least most of the time. Illegal wars excepted.
You’re a drug taker. Oh yes you are. Every day.
Medicines, tea, coffee.. In fact, that most people don’t view coffee – or more accurately caffeine – as a drug, is an anathema to me. Such a powerful psychoactive drug, which is highly addictive and readily available to anyone. Pretty toxic to dogs by the way, so best not perk up your pet Labrador with a quick Nespresso.
The power of this substance was ably demonstrated to me today, after an abstention of a couple of days from this Ethiopian elixir. I woke up at 4AM with a cracking headache. Seven hours and some ibuprofen later I’m no better (and I’m not a big taker of painkillers).
One cafe latte and within 15 minutes, I’m right as rain.
We’re all drug addicts. Alongside the 90% of Americans who consume crystalline xanthine alkaloid doses every day.
The American alcohol prohibition of the 1930’s didn’t work (and in the process, set the stage for three decades of organised crime, as the profits from the illegal alcohol production set the American Mafia up for the next fifty years). It’s ridiculous then to think that prohibition of Marijuana or in fact other substances is going to be successful.
Drugs should be make legal, probably with a couple of exception. Why? Because they can be controlled, quality controlled, access controlled and because Marlboro & co will kick the arse of every drug cartel in the world within months.
A not insignificant 7.6 billion pounds of the UK government tax revenues comes from Tobacco sales. Imagine what you could do with those from additional drug sales?
Education. Proper care for those addicted to any drug – prescribed medications included.
The sometimes dangerous differentiation between legally rubber-stamped drugs (that many of us consume every day – some good, some bad) and those which are illegal for historical or habitual reasons must surely stop in our lifetime.
Two of the biggest practical problems with the illegal street trade is the up-selling onto harder drugs by street dealers and that those substances which are already dangerous are made more dangerous by impurities. For a drug user, it is a lottery.
How often do you go the off license to buy a bottle of wine or beer and be up-sold by a shop keeper to a crate of 50% proof Polish vodka? ..almost never. And at least even if you did, you could be pretty sure the Vodka wouldn’t blind you.
Every day, people risk their general health by taking illegal substances, bought from dubious sources, and in the process support child labour, horrendous criminal activities both at home and particularly abroad, creating in the process potential future or immediate burdens on our health services, without even having contributed to their funding via the very recreation which subsequently causes the damage.
In summary, de-criminalisation is no answer. This actually makes the situation even worse. It encourages consumption and increases demand which further funds organised crime – as even if not a criminal action to consume, production will remain so.
Politicians need to grasp this nettle and lead. Part of a politicians job is to educate the masses and in the process lead the country to the right solution. That will, for sure, take time. And sadly, perhaps a very long time as some parts of the electorate have not always been renowned for their forward thinking. That might suggest it translates then to potential political suicide for any one who dares suggest the status- quo with drugs is not the way forward. May be. May be not.
Juan Manuel Santos should know what he’s talking about, he’s the President of Columbia. He says http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/13/colombia-juan-santos-war-on-drugs ..it may be an interesting decade for management of the drug problem.
UPDATE: Here are the full results of the Q1 2013 UK Survey on the amendment of drug policy for the UK Drug Foundation.
UPDATE: Report in May 2013 suggest the war on drugs is leading to a Hepatitis C pandemic
UPDATE: The Global Commission on Drug Policy, supported by Kofi Anan and three ex US Presidents amongst others, alongside Latin American leaders both past and present, damning the existing global policy on drugs.
UPDATE: BBC November 2013 More illegal drugs kill people due to fake content or bad supply
UPDATE: Mark Curry writes of The Truth About Our Favourite Addictive Drug (i.e. caffeine)
UPDATE: More evidence that media reporting of drugs behaviour (and deaths) is distorted and misguided.