Thursday, 16 December 2010

Why couldn't Bob Ainsworth have stuck his head above the Parapet Two Years Ago?

Bob Ainsworth(less), a minister of spectacular uselessness even by New Labour standards has come out and said it. The war on drugs is a counter-productive, expensive, damaging failure.

Why the hell did he not do anything about these views when he was in Government? Of course the rhetorical question can be answered: Because of grotesque producer capture by law-enforcement and media; political inertia and cowardice on all sides of the house. Suggest such a "crazy" thing and you will get comments like "I have seen what drugs do to communities..." without considering the counter argument of legalization, regulation and some control would do much more to help the addict, at much less harm to the non-problem user and cost to the tax-payer than the enormously expensive and totally futile attempts to limit supply.

The fact is slowly, one by one politicians are realising that a cheap win is to decriminalise drugs and medicalize addiction, whilst leaving the non-problem user alone. This removes a cause of enormous harm to populations, especially in Britain, poor and ethnic minority populations who don't use particularly more than their white compatriots but are FAR more likely to have their doors kicked in and their collars felt by plod. The tide is turning. Pot was nearly legalised in California. There are experiments in Holland, Portugal, Spain and others, which have not led to the collapse of society. Nor have they even led to increases in drug use. The fact is the failure of prohibition is so complete that illegal drugs are more available and cheaper than they've ever been. Because of the hysteria about booze, in many cases they're easier to get hold of for a teenager than alcohol. Cocaine, once the preserve of rock-stars and the rich is now available for £30 a gram. It's cheaper and easier to get high than it is to get drunk, especially after pub closing hours.

The Zero-Tolerance approach could only work when you had worldwide acceptance of that policy. That has broken, and steadily the failed dogma of prohibition will be rolled back. Even in the USA. Once it is seen that legalised pot hasn't caused a major social problem as promised in "reefer madness".

The current coalition are, or were, sympathetic to legalisation, and I have spoken to senior people in Law enforcement, politics who will, in private say that the war on Drugs is lost, is unwinnable and it is the war on drugs, rather than the drugs themselves which destroy communities. The only people who say otherwise are the kind of people in the military and police who proudly say "Having never taken drugs, I can say they have nothing to offer". People who think through the issue, beyond the dogmatic line can see that decriminalization or legalisation would significantly reduce harm, in many cases without increasing use. It remains career-harming for a copper, especially in the lower ranks to say so publicly. Unfortunately, it is still electorally risky to say so publicly, and whilst significant numbers of Tories and Labour MPs are in favour of freedom on the issue in private, there is an authoritarian wing of both parties, which sees something of which it disapproves and thinks "Ban This" and it is this tendency which gets the popular press on their side, because they make a lot of money from pictures of Kate moss snorting a line.

However, David Nutt, for his faults is in favour of a more realistic line, as were the other scientists on the Advisory council on drugs. Law Enforcement against Prohibition are increasingly influential in the USA, and Chief constables, Lawyers and Civil Servants working in the Field in the UK have added their voices. Just about the only people who will consistently oppose legalisation who know the situation in any detail are drug dealers themselves - these guys have the most to lose. Sooner or later, drugs policy will come in from the cold, and the reality of what it is doing to countries like Mexico will mean that something will give. Already, the number of police, politicians and scientists who are prepared to put their heads above the parapet is increasing. Cracks are beginning to show in the dam holding reality back, and one of the good things about democracy is that it usually gets social questions right. Eventually.

At the moment, the prevalent view is that drugs are a moral issue - they represent weakness of character. This is the line deployed against masturbation, extra-marital sex and homosexuality by the authoritarians in the past. It was a fallacious argument then, it's fallacious now. Moral has nothing to do with whether something should be illegal. The fact is that most of us have had a spliff - find me a graduate who hasn't - and few of us go on to mainlining smack. Some stoner undergraduates have even gone onto serious careers in the police, the Military the professions. Some however become politicians. Drugs policy IS a moral issue. The current prohibition is grotesquely counterproductive, destructive of societies and communities and astonishingly illiberal. Anyone who supports it is either malign, ignorant, stupid or all three.

My guess is that the Daily Mail is wrong and we will be able to have a spliff after dinner fairly soon.



7 comments:

Andy H said...

File this one, perhaps, under "Questions to which the answer is 'Because He's A Cunt'".

Anonymous said...

The problem I had was the crap with putting it into the hands of doctors and pharmasits.

Because yes, I would love for the state to keep records on what drugs I purchase, what a brilliant idea!

If they are to legalise it, then they need to properly legalise it, I want to be able to buy it in a shop, annonously.

Travelgall said...

I knewe you wouldn't be able to let this lie. I'm not even going to go into whether drugs are a social good or not, just address your points on the Times they are a changing speech.

"The fact is slowly, one by one politicians are realising that a cheap win is to decriminalise drugs and medicalize addiction, whilst leaving the non-problem user alone".

No they are not. You get the odd politician every once in a while once he's out of office saying this is a good idea. This is not an inevitable process - indeed the opposite. The liberal Democrats suggested this before. It got shit canned double quick. The fact that this makes front page news shows how rare it is.

"This removes a cause of enormous harm to populations, especially in Britain, poor and ethnic minority populations who don't use particularly more than their white compatriots but are FAR more likely to have their doors kicked in and their collars felt by plod".

No it doesn't. It merely transfers the problem from the Law and Order budget to the Health budget. Granted it moves the facilitators of production and supply from criminals to pharmaceutical industries but that's about it. And if its as highly taxed as people pretend legalised crack is going to be, people will still be breaking into your house to pay for it.

"The tide is turning. Pot was nearly legalised in California".

So in other words it failed again, in the joint most left wing hippie drippie State in the US (the other state being Vermont). And even if it got voted in on a State level the Federal Government would withold their funding until they changed their minds PDQ, just like they did with Nevada and speeding.

"There are experiments in Holland, Portugal, Spain and others, which have not led to the collapse of society".

The Dutch Shitcanned the Heroin shoot em up liberalisation because it didn't work. They rowed back on everything except pot, probably because of the death threats they were getting from the Amsterdam Chamber of Tourism. Don't know about Spain. I can name one other - can you? And the one I'm thinking about got cracked down on massively.

There's too much money in law enforcement to ever change this. You can wave your arms around about how unfair this is, but it will never change. No matter how many breathless articles "High Times" writes about how the DEA are all Nazis. Being caught with drugs is like being a motorist and speeding. If you choose to do this, Its one of those lottery events you just have to deal with. The police may catch you and stick you in a cell with a very amourous Bubba where your anal muscles may experience some dammage, the chances are small, but them's the risks you take.

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

The analogy I have used with speeding is a good one. I think the current speed laws are dumb. I can fart on about ABS, better survivability on impact, better tires and grip, more fuel efficient cars till the cows come home. I am realistic enough however to know this will never change, even when they invent flying cars that obviously can't hit pedestrians and computers separate them so they can't hit each other. Even after all that there will still be a 70 mph zone because the RSPB will whinge about 70 being safe for commuting Pidgeons or something.

When most people think drugs, they think Pete Doherty and the shits that stole their silver wedding frames - not Sherlock Holmes. The average person will quite happily keep this illegal (and not all of them read the Daily Mail). Even more so as the Baby Boomer "Me" generation wankers (of which comrade Bob is one) who used Pot and LSD to get laid die off, and the next generation who remember Crack babies and Bathtub Meth start assuming the levers of power.

Jackart said...

TG: You say "It merely transfers the problem from the Law and Order budget to the Health budget. Granted it moves the facilitators of production and supply from criminals to pharmaceutical industries but that's about it. And if its as highly taxed as people pretend legalised crack is going to be, people will still be breaking into your house to pay for it"

You ignore several points.

First that the fact it's illegal INCREASES use of the most harmful drugs: especially crack and meth because these are responses to a localised shortages of what people want which is Coke and Heroin. It is not for nothing that meth is a drug of poor rural america. Junkies in urban centres can get brown.

Secondly, Heroin is harmful mainly because people aren't injecting what they want, which is medical-grade diamorphine, they're injecting mucky, impure stuff with dirty needles BECAUSE it's illegal. The junkie pallour is not because of Heroin, but mainly because of the infectious and harmful stuff that goes in with it.

So, legal drugs would cause fewer health problems. And indeed, this is the swiss experience.

Furthermore, you ignore the pyramid selling economics of drugs, I've mentioned this in several posts on the subject. I have NEVER had a prohibitionist address this issue. It is likely that legal drugs would see use deminish in the long run, especially in heroin. And indeed, this is the swiss experience.

Portugal has decriminalised drugs, and has not seen usage go up significantly.

The war on drugs has failed to such an extent that anyone in a reasonable sized town can get whatever they want, easier than drink.

And another thing. The USA spends the equivalent of the UK defence budget on the "war on drugs". The result is NO significant shortages of coke in US cities, and a failed state in Mexico where 10s of 1000s of people have died. Redeploying a fraction of this immense cost to the health budget would see junkies better off, the state better off, mexico better off.

Whether you think this is a NEVER issue, is moot. My point is that it is the Bloggers job to keep making the case. Reality, eventually, will catch up.

Countries are bankrupt. This is a cheap win for a politician with guts.

banned said...

The War On Drugs is lost every time they screen a vid telling youngsters that their first whiff of spliff will lead to a short life of drug dependency, prostitution and a miserable death which is self evidently a lie.

'Forcing' youngsters to go to drug dealers to buy spliff puts them in the company of serial criminals whose main interest is to get them into harder, more profitable drugs. I have seen this occur a number of times, managed to stop it once or twice.

The NHS is responsible for getting many into drugs in the first place. There is a well known local hangout where the 'recovering' junkies go to sell their meth and benzos to the schoolkids who are well aware of the differing values and efficacy of the red ones and the green ones, the price varies from 50p to a couple of quid. This has been going on for years.

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