Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Legalise Drugs. Now.

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.

(Hunter s. Thompson Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)
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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Very good arguments. It's an easy case to argue though, there is simply no good counter argument, and anyone who tries is going to look like a right fuckwit (look at Gordon Brown Trousers!)

"There is no doubt that use of currently proscribed substances would go up somewhat, at least in the short term"

I'm not sure this is true, if so I think it's a very short term thing. Generally the evidence from places where drugs have been legalised/decriminalised is that usage goes DOWN, not up...


BenefitScroungingScum said...

Couldn't agree more, although the two men I most respect, both of whom have relevant professional expertise are against legalisation. Their opinions and arguments as those who have to deal with the different parts of the situation tell me there must be a point to that which has nothing to do with 'middle Britain' or any such nonsense.

Shotgun said...

summary execution for all drug users and dealers...within a year the whole drug problem is solved.

Anonymous said...

Very well said.

We were talking in the office about this very issue today (prompted by the Horizon programme the other night... or was it synchronicity at work).

Most people seemed to be in broad agreement with the ideas in your pitch.


Devil's Kitchen said...


But international pariah? Portugal has decriminalised all drugs. That might be a starting point...


John B said...

Applause indeed. I can't work out whether Shotgun is taking the piss or mentally ill...

@ BSS: what experience do your respected men have?

Anonymous said...

Hunter S Thompson blew his own brains out due to depression brought on by the drugs he took. Probably not the best advert for your argument old boy.
Chris Gall

John B said...

"Hunter S Thompson blew his own brains out due to depression brought on by the drugs he took."

You are either
1) Hunter S Thompson's medical doctor revealing confidential and previously undisclosed secrets

2) tit on the internet making shit up?

please do tell which.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr B.

Oh I'm sorry, the fact that he was saying that somebody was out to get him because he knew the secrets of the world trade centre disaster had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the vast quantities of drugs he took. It's also nothing to do with the fact that the law recognises the link between drug use and believing you're Hitler whilst smoking Bananas.

You don't have to have a medical degree to make a reasoned deduction. One can work out basic medical and biological processes without a degree. E.g. You called me a tit, this is due to anger management issues caused by your small genitalia. You see QED, deduction through reason, quite easy if your brain cell isn't bouncing between your coronal suture and lambdoidal suture (bit of medical for you there) like a 1980's Nintendo Tennis game.

Oh and Doctor-Patient confidentiality doesn't apply to the dead. This is why Inquests are open to the general public. You can even buy Hunter S Thompson's autopsy here...

Yours Titly
Chris Gall

Shotgun said...

Blogger John B said...

"Hunter S Thompson blew his own brains out due to depression brought on by the drugs he took."

You are either
1) Hunter S Thompson's medical doctor revealing confidential and previously undisclosed secrets

2) tit on the internet making shit up?

please do tell which.

I was privvy to my cousin and my wifes cousins medical files when they died as a direct result of drug taking, so forget any others.

Drugs kill and cunts who think they don't are cunts.

The penalties for drug taking and dealing are too lenient, and the liberalisation of those penalties have a direct bearing on the rise of them becoming a worse scourge on society.

Neither taking the piss or mentally ill, in fact any fucking cunt that thinks making them legal will solve the problem is a fucking mental defective. It's a bit like this fucking Home Secretary saying there is no such thing as a muslim terrorist, and then claiming they have solved the terrorist problem; it is fucking cretinous.

Summary execution for dealers and users, then the problem would be solved.

I can't believe I'm even fucking replying to some fucking mong that thinks like you for fucks sake. Let's legalise every criminal act then more fucking crime...what a scoop eh?

Anonymous said...

First the Archbishop now you. Something in the water perhaps?

Simon Clark said...

Totally agree. Prohibition:

Does not stop drug use.

Wastes resources.

Is unjust.

Creates terrible problems.

Pretends it is the solution to these, thus perpetuating itself.

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

Drug addiction needs to be brought into the control of the NHS to undermine the promotion/ marketing efforts of the existing suppliers and at the same time changing the image of drug taking from cool to very uncool.
The hyperlink function isn't working here but follow URL below to "The Insider" on Channel4:

Jackart said...

Shotgun: I don't pretend some drugs kill, and I don't pretend any are safe. By "safe" i mean safer than alcohol, because let's face it: alcohol kills too, and society deems that acceptable. You cannot ban Marijuana on safety grounds and allow alcohol and tobacco. Not with a straight face. Marijuana is a whole different ballpark to hard drugs like cocaine and whiskey.

I understand you're a man who agrees with the proposition "guns don't kill people, people kill people". Is there an inconsistency?

Anonymous said...

It's essentially a question of what kind of a society do you want to have.

Do you want a society in which adults can be charged as adults if they rob a bank but are not treated as adults as far as being able to make their own adult decisions about drugs?

Or do you want a society where everyone who is legally an adult is (gasp!) actually TREATED like an adult, with drugs legal and regulated like that perfectly-legal drug alcohol?

That should be the ultimate deciding factor: Do you want a country that allows its adults to make adult decisions? Or one where the government tries to act as our parent and say "Now that's not good for you! You're not allowed to do that" ?

P.S.-- The U.S. tried prohibition of alcohol from 1919 to the 1930s and you know what it did?
1.It actually made drinking INCREASE, because it gave it a mystique it may not otherwise have had
2.It did nothing to stem the DEMAND for alcohol; rather it shifted the supplier from being legal liquor stores and bars to being controlled by the mafia, and there were of course alcohol-related shootouts and whatnot.
3.It did little to stem the SUPPLY of alcohol as well; instead most police looked the other way or were profiting from it themselves. It led to MORE graft, not less. See where I'm going with this? You can't uninvent alcohol or other drugs and ultimately the consequences of a government trying to legislate human behaviour and make certain substances illegal for an adult to choose to ingest into their OWN body are FAR worse than any drug itself. Bottom line: Any government saying an adult is not old enough to make the adult decision to use a drug is a government that doesn't think highly of its people, doesn't trust them to make their own decisions. It's a question of: Do you want a country of grown-ups? Or a country of children being told what they can and cannot ingest? Legalise. All. Drugs. Now.

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