Anorak | Make all drugs legal and stop censoring free thought and recklessness

Make all drugs legal and stop censoring free thought and recklessness

by | 3rd, October 2013

DAVID Aaronovitch has something sensible to say on the war on drugs:

Take crime and contaminated supplies out of the equation and the number of deaths will certainly fall..

At huge expense we have put armies of people in prison, occupied millennia of police time, effectively ceded control of a big and lucrative trade to gangsters, while at the same time failing to meet any of our objectives for reducing illicit drug use. It is time to do something else…

The big problem, of course, is that there is no reliable model whatsoever for working out how much drug-taking would increase as a result of lifting the prohibition. For example one major recent attempt to quantify the cost benefit analysis of legalising cannabis gave a level of uncertainty that created a range of minus £1.3 billion in drugs-related costs to society to plus £400 million in benefit. I would anticipate even more uncertainty in any model dealing with “hard” drugs.

The “it’s illegal, don’t do it” message has a clarity that may well put many off experimenting with drugs. So my presumption is that legalisation risks creating a greater number of casual experimenters.

But set against this risk is the fact that criminalisation makes it virtually impossible to have the same conversations about drugs and sensible drug-taking (yes, there is such a thing) that you can have about fags and booze. The price of such legally induced opacity is impossible to calculate. To take the obvious example, which school is more likely to encourage pupils who have taken drugs to discuss their problems — one with a liberal outlook or one that prescribes automatic and unappealable expulsion for transgression? In one situation you can have a discussion and offer advice. In the other you drive the practice underground and hope that someone somewhere else — the police or drugs charities — will pick up the pieces.

Not quite in the same vain as former Drugs Czar David Nutt, who said the ban on weed and trippy drugs was “the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo”. But a follow-up to Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, who told the Observer:

If you started to give a heroin addict the drug therapeutically, we would not have the scourge of hepatitis C and HIV spreading among needle users, for instance. I am calling for a controlled environment, not a free for all. In addition, I am saying that people who encourage others to take drugs by selling them are criminals, and their actions should be tackled. But addicts, on the other hand, need to be treated, cared for and encouraged to break the cycle of addiction. They do not need to be criminalised.

The approach to banned substances contrasts sharply with our attitude towards alcohol. I am deeply disappointed that the government has not followed through on its initial support for a minimum price for alcohol. In the north-east we suffer immense inequalities in health and life expectancy due to alcohol addiction. Is it fair that alcohol-related crime and licensing costs society in my own force area alone at least £65.8m a year?

Put that in your pipe and smoke it…

Posted: 3rd, October 2013 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink