Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Drug Decriminalisation, again.

Another day, another sensible person in the public eye bravely puts his head above the parapet and says "isn't it time we decriminalised recreational drugs for personal use?" In this instance, it's Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Green QC. I wonder if he's to suffer the same fate as the unfortunate professor Nutt.

A growing body of comparative evidence suggests that decriminalising personal use can have positive consequences. “It can free up huge amounts of police resources, reduce crime and recidivism and improve public health. All this can be achieved without any overall increase in drug usage. If this is so, then it would be rational to follow suit.
In the Telegraph's report, we get the same facile rent-a-quote arguments against this sensible proposal. First up is savagely illiberal Labour crypto-facist and serial Hypocrite, Keith 'I cannot believe I'm still an MP after the shit I've pulled' Vaz, who offered the "message" argument:
I am shocked by the suggestion that drugs should be decriminalised for personal use. The legalisation of drugs would simply create the mistaken impression that these substances are not harmful, when in fact this is far from the truth
There's a law against procuring malfeasance in a public office, Mr Vaz, you corrupt little maggot, and that didn't prevent you accepting a peerage to vote in favour of locking your co-religionists up for 42 days at a time on a Governmental whim, did it? So you're shocked that someone expresses an opinion, mr Vaz? I'm shocked you're not in gaol, fuckwit.

OK, so I'm playing the man, not the ball there, but the law is about setting the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, and the savage penalties for drug use are out of all proportion to the harm they do, especially when compared to Alcohol. The law is not there for public health, and shouldn't seek to protect people from themselves. It should certainly not be used to "send a message", because the law is a powerful, but blunt tool that can bitterly oppress. The law creates victims if overused. It should not be used to express disapproval.

Next up we've got the "slippery-slope" argument from Tory MP James Clappison.
There seems to be a very strong link between recreational drug use, leading to drug addiction leading to crime fuelled by drug addiction. I would have thought the chairman of the Bar Council would have seen that for himself.
How many people have tried Canabis and never tried any other illegal drug? The answer to that question blows the slippery slope argument out of the water. Some 25% of young people enjoy a joint. Fewer than 10% report use of anything else, though the article linked seems to claim that this does show a slippery slope! If that won't wash, try anecdotal evidence: How many people were enthusiastic tokers at University and then don't touch anything else afterwards? The slippery slope argument is facile.

Next up, we've ex-Asda checkout boy and wet-back Tory MP Phillip Davies who offers the "well why don't we legalise crime argument":
It is a ludicrous argument to say let’s legalise drugs to take pressure off the police and the courts. That is an argument to legalise everything.
No it isn't because one chap selling another chap something he wants does not create a victim. Why are we policing something that thousands of people take regularly the vast majority of whom do not cause problems? Why are we prosecuting people for possession of small amounts for personal use, when moderate canabis, extasy or cocaine use causes less problems than Alcohol, which leads to blood and vomit on every high street in Britain every friday night?

MPs shouldn't ask "why should we legalise"? they should ask "why are we banning when we allow people to get pissed". An absurd percentage of the court's time is taken up with "drug-related" offences. Legalising the trade would remove a hugely profitable industry from organised crime, remove profits which are fought over by rival gangs, remove the introduction to criminals by otherwise law-abiding users and allow users to be confident in what they are taking. Legaised drugs would be safer, less harmful, create less crime AND help the exchequer. The Governmnet would have lower enforcement costs (by some billions a year) AND have a revenue stream they could tax.

Inevitably when this subject is covered in the papers we get some Mother who's son (usually it's 'died', but in this case it's merely) developed "severe personality changes" when he started smoking canabis at 14. First, is there any evidence that Canabis causes mental health problems. Yes, but it's not certain that Canabis is worse than Alcohol in this regard. But Post hoc Ergo Propter Hoc - find me a teenager who doesn't develop "severe personality changes"! Of course no-one's going to pretend recreational drugs are good for you. But it is a personal choice. And in this instance, a developing brain is more likely to be kept from dope, were it legal and the trade regulated. This is NOT an argument against decriminalisation, but an appeal to the emotion of the reader.

Every argument against decriminalisation falls down because the assumption is that banning has any effect at all on supply, and a negative effect on demand. It doesn't. If you're in a town in the small hours, illegal drugs are easier to come by than legal alcohol. If you're 14, illegal drugs may be easier to get than booze. There are many pieces of evidence that if you want to reduce USE, especially amonst the young, then legalisation or decriminalisation are the way to go. I've dealt with this in more detail here, but principally it boils down to the fact that the easiest way to sustain a habit is to become a dealer. This leads to a highly efficient pyramid marketing and distribution scheme.

If you want to reduce harm, then safe, legal and regulated drugs are the way to go. If you want to reduce crime, then remove the profits from THE MOST PROFITABLE TRADE THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN from organised crime and give it to businesses which pay tax and produce safe, reliable products. As well as improving the health of the users, This will reduce enforcement costs, which can be redeployed elsewhere, and the create revenue. Much drug related crime is fighting over the profits. Remove the profits, remove the crime.

Anyone who cannot see this is an idiot. Anyone who thinks there's a moral issue here about what should be allowed in the face of these utilitarian arguments is a cunt. It really is that simple.


Haikutastic said...

I think you're totally right. I've often debated the same issues with myself, often considering the negative consequences on communities of legalizing highly addictive substances such as heroin or crack, but I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't make a difference either way. Whether its legal or not won't impact on the levels of addiction anymore than in the current situation. Drugs are readily available now anyway, people will still make the same choices regardless of their legality.

Haikutastic said...

* often considering the negative impact upon communities, legalizing highly addictive substances such as heroin or crack may have

(English isn't my first language)

TonyF said...

For what it's worth, there are only two ways to deal with the issue of recreational pharmaceuticals.
1. Make the dealing of any illegal substance result in a mandatory death penalty, no exceptions. This would work in time but be expensive to control.
2. Legalise all drugs. Sell via reputable pharmacies at sensible prices, tax appropriately, and treat as alcohol and tobacco. See the useless underclass try to find another way to make illegal cash....

banned said...

Decriminalising drugs seems to have worked well in Portugal while from personal observation I can report that the not-illegal use of canabis in Holland has not resulted in palatial toking palaces but rather dreary and not much used "coffee houses" for sad old twats trying to re-live the swinging 60's.

OurSally said...

Another plus point you forgot: making it legal makes it controlled. In the famous Dutch coffee houses, the stuff you buy is clean and pure and available in different strengths.

The Young Oligarch said...

Pedantic interlude : Vaz is an RC .

Mr Ecks said...

Vaz is an RC'ole

Anonymous said...

A further obvious but important point - making it legal does everything you refer to AND removes a large degree of the teenaged rebelious chic.

Want to keep your kids off drugs? Make them as boring and dreery as possible.

I intend for my kids to have their first experience of drugs with me. Nothing could be less cool than getting high with their old man :)

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