20-25% of young people have used cannabis in the last year. A far smaller number use Cocaine or heroin. That's the "gateway drug argument" dismissed as utter bollocks. There are huge numbers of Ex users; most of the Cabinet and shadow cabinet have at least tried the drug, which suggests it is not particularly addictive. It has demonstrable medical benefits in combatting pain and appetite loss (maybe the student who swallowed his key in fact had an extreme attack of the munchies).
Cannabis does seem to have some impact on mental health - schizophrenia, but only amongst heavy users and those already prone. This is also true of alcohol, which also causes violence and disorder in a way not associated with cannabis. You cannot prohibit one and not the other on this basis. Cannabis should be legalised on the basis that anything regularly done by huge numbers of people shouldn't be criminalised for fear of the law being an ass. The same is true of Ecstasy. Before you scream "Leah Betts" the fact that her name is so well known should indicate the relative safety of MDMA as a recreational drug: One well publicised death from water intoxication despite the fact that nearly 2% of the population take the drug regularly is testament to the safety, despite the drug's illegality. Imagine how safe it would be if there was a legal supply chain.
Both Cannabis and MDMA are safer than Alcohol, and don't generally cause people to kick each others heads in for spilling my pint.
I am a stockbroker. I've seen enough of cocaine to see that it is not that much more harmful than Alcohol, especially in reasonable use. Heavy use is, however a slowly unfolding disaster for users. There is a greater risk of psychological addiction with cocaine than almost any other drug, and human users act like lab rats: they take whatever they can get their paws on - it is a more powerful chemical "reward" for the brain even than sex, and this creates a powerful urge. There is a medical case therefore for criminalising it. Cocaine is the most widely (ab) used major stimulant in America, and even so, it causes far, far fewer deaths than Alcohol. Vicious prohibition fails to interdict supply or constrain use, and serves to introduce otherwise law abiding people to criminals whose modus operandi is far nastier (because of the logistic chain) than those involved in the supply of Marijuana.
Heroin is more of a problem to libertarians: the effects on the individual and society from heroin are severe, and can an addict truly be described as free? Many of the negative effects however are a symptom not of the drug, but of its illegality. Most overdose deaths, like Rachael Whitear are probably caused when an unusually pure consignment of smack hits the streets. As the drug is illegal, it is expensive. There are three ways to fund a habit: Crime, prostitution and become a dealer yourself. Clearly number one is not a long-term strategy, number 2 is only open to women, so to fund a serious habit, you need to deal. This creates a big pyramid marketing scheme, which is, in part responsible for the concentration of users on sink estates. It cannot be avoided whilst the drug is illegal. Therefore the social harm is likely to be reduced by legalisation: those who wantit should be able to get it, but the incentives to encourage use in others should be removed.
Crack is a derivative of cocaine, which will become less popular if cocaine is legalised. Crystal Meth is a Heroin substitute which can be made out of legal precursors. Legalise heroin and cociane, crystal meth will become less popular. Both fuck you up a treat. I'm not going to pretend otherwise. There are others:
We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers... Also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.There are reasonable grounds for banning harmful drugs. But they all come up against one thing: The war on drugs is futile. You cannot, in a free society interdict supply. With that in mind, why try? In the UK, one estimate suggested that less than 12% of drugs were interdicted. We live on an Island. If it is impossible here, more so on the continent. Face it, you're never more than a 10 minute drive to a score. In many places at many times, it's easier to get illegal drugs than buy a pint of beer.
(Hunter s. Thompson Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)
All you do is criminalise users. Selling pot is a victimless crime - leave both parties alone! A regulated trade in Cocaine or Heroine would remove a lucrative revenue stream from organised crime and international terrorism - the argument that you're funding nasties by taking drugs is inevitable while they're illegal, and there has never been a business as profitable as illegal drugs. Interdiction merely raises profits to the successful smuggler. The economics mean the trade cannot be stopped except at the cost of a police state. Such liberalisation would free the £2 billion currently wasted - including the use of Britain's scarce special forces troops which are sorely needed elsewhere - attempting the interdiction of supply. Money could be pumped into addict support, working on the demand side far more profitably and significantly reducing harm, and reducing the number of problem users.
A legalised drug trade would remove criminal elements' profits from the trade, ensure consistency and safety of product. International development would be improved by removing desablaising narco lords' profits and therefore power. Much of the incidental harm in western cities would be reduced by clean drugs of known strength available at lower cost. Addicts would be less stigmatised for seeking support, and like alcoholics now, many more would seek help before their behaviour became a problem. Habits would be cheaper to finance, and more would be able to do so from work.
There is no doubt that use of currently proscribed substances would go up somewhat, at least in the short term, but as many new users would not become problem users, this need not be a disaster. The system is broken at the moment, and almost any situation is better than the drugs policy we've got.
I've spoken to politicians, senior police officers and a huge number of professionals about this. Few argue with these ideas, but are aware that it is "politically impossible" to do anything. There are 2 reasons cited: International relations and the Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail, and anyone who reads it can be ignored. Unilateral legalisation of drugs will, however cause Britain to become a pariah, and drugs tourism would become a significant problem. In addition, legalising drugs would simply mean that major criminals make the UK their home. They'll probably buy football teams. It would cause us to fall out with key allies, particularly the US whose hard-line attitude to drugs is quite ridiculous. All is not lost. One day the world will see sense that the prohibition of substances is futile. It will require a major country to go out on a limb first. Why not us? Cannabis is already effectively decriminalised on the continent and if the US can be made to see sense, then the rest of the world will follow.
Prohibition is a habit now, and so much has been invested the sunk cost argument means that people, especially law-enforcement types will be loathe to change. It will be seen as "giving the wrong message to young people" or some such nonsense. Whoever legalises it will be blamed for every single subsequent overdose death. It will take some political courage, but it is the right thing to do. Despite evidence that Cannabis use has fallen since its classification as a class C drug, Gordon Brown's intent to re-raise Cannabis to class B is just an attempt to seem tough on the Law and order issue, but it is absolutely the wrong thing to do.