Thursday, 2 June 2011

The War on Drugs: The Dam is Breaking.

So, following the rare outbreak of sanity earlier this year from our very own Bob Ainsworth, a few more serious people have put their heads above the parapet and called for an end to the War on Drugs. This time the signatories include the former President of Columbia, who you'd think knew a thing or two about the subject, George Shultz, Javier Solana and Kofi Annan. This adds to the declaration by Juan Manuel Santos, the current Columbian president that he would "not be against decriminalisation". It's not just international NGO grandees and superannuated politicians either. Law Enforcement against Prohibition now boasts thousands of members. Several unserious people added their voice too. A few Countries around the world are decriminalising drugs, and not seeing their societies collapse into anarchy, though the US ensures that outright legalisation is off the table for the time being, and the White House described the report as "misguided" it is clear the it is standing Canute*-like against a rising tide.

Whatever Gil Kerlikowske thinks, the dam is cracking in the global establishment position that drugs eradication by interdiction of supply is the best means to mitigate the harms of illegal drugs. The evidence is mounting that supply cannot be interdicted in any meaningful way, and that most users do not cause problems.

There are still pillars of resistance which will remain standing long after the cracks become a flood. The law-enforcement community has invested huge sums in prohibition, and vast bureaucracies, some with global reach like the DEA which have huge lobbying power, will resist decriminalisation, which amounts to a declaration that 40 years of effort and sacrifice from their officers has been a failure at best, and probably massively counter-productive.

Our own dear Inspector Gadget condemns the "well heeled" who call for the legalisation of drugs, arguing that "the reality" of drug use amongst the criminal underclass is different. Of course, if poor people admit to drug use, they get locked up. Unlike Dame Judi Dench or Sting.

"At least when it’s illegal we can do something about it, unlike the widespread alcohol abuse which causes so much damage to society."
He says. Of course, it may not be the Police's role to "do something" about drugs and alcohol apart from locking up problem users who nick things or beat each other up. Just because something is bad, or harmful, it doesn't follow that it should be illegal. Much of the crime associated with drugs is either 1) acquisitive crime to fund a habit. or 2) violent crime as dealers defend their patch.

The law enforcement communtiy is not known for radical thinking, and has a lot of political capital tied up in prohibition, not to mention jobs and funding. Their knee-jerk response to any call for decriminalisation is to condemn it as "misguided" or "dangerous" and to dismiss the person making the call as a (probably drug-addled) crank. Such reports as today make this approach more difficult, and the truth is coming out: Legalised drugs would reduce the cost, reducing the level of acquisitive crime needed to fund habits. It would eventually eliminate drug related violent crime as dealers would be undercut by the local legal supplier. Booze may cause fights, but it's not the publican beating up the manager of the local branch of Sainsbury's.

But wouldn't legal drugs be more available? No. Drugs are easier to get hold of (especially after hours) than Alcohol in most urban areas. In terms of oblivion per buck, Heroin's cheaper than booze. If anything a legal supply chain would REDUCE availability to problem users.

But drugs are Harmful, wouldn't legalising them mean more use, more addicts and be detrimental to society? That's not the evidence of Portugal's or any other decriminalisation experiment (the supply chain is still in criminal hands). In addition to the crime reduction, by imposing pharmaceutical standards on drugs, many of the medical problems associated with use will be reduced even more by legalisation and regulation as opposed to mere decriminalisation.

The fact supporters of continued prohibition must contend with, is, after 40 years of the 'war on Drugs' has failed. Coke, weed, heroin are more plentiful and cheaper than they have ever been. Whatever the answer to the "drug problem" more of the same ain't it.

*Yes, I know Canute was making a point to his courtiers.



16 comments:

Stueeey said...

I think it is slowly becoming to point where they are going to have to come up with a solution. However as you have stated it is easier said than done.

For me I think they should legalise drugs, but where the cut off point is I couldn't tell you. I think that should be determined by signs and put the bar on par with Alcohol and Tobacco to the damage it does physically and social to the individually and to society.

startledcod said...

Legalise (almost) all drugs completely

- Quality control (like fags, booze, OTC [over the counter]drugs)
- Different strengths (like fags, booze, OTC drugs)
- Only sold by licensed retailers (like fags, booze, OTC drugs)
- Tax revenues from sales (like fags, booze, OTC drugs)
- Tax revenues from corporate profits (like fags, booze, OTC drugs)
- Reduced crime until low-lifes find something else to kill each other about
- Reduced costs as no need to pay the Police to wage a futile war
- Easier to provide treatment for problem users as they are no longer criminals just unfortunate losers
- Easier to prevent sale of really dangerous stuff. Who is going to go looking for illegal crystal meth when there is cheap clean heroin available? Is there a trade in moonshine - no.

Q E D

Single acts of tyranny said...

To be honest I would have had more time for Ainsworth if he had done something when he was in a position to do so. Bravely opening your mouth afterwards is, well perhaps what I expect of Bob.

That said, the drugs war, is really a war on people and the sooner it is over, the better.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree, the 'battle' is lost, I'd rather see the criminals losing out, clean drugs and far less harm to users - we don't live in a perfect world.
We can't stop illegal drugs, so legalise them, only logical option IMHO.
Cut the Taliban's income tomorrow as a bonus - I always said the ISAF forces and Nato should have been buying opium in Af-Pak to stop their revenue stream - worth a try but Yanks were not in favour.

JimmyGiro said...

"1) acquisitive crime to fund a habit."

This is a myth in my opinion. The crime habit has its own perverse rewards; the drug habit happens after the criminals have found themselves to be the richer, and the more bored after the excitement of crime.

As for the 'war on drugs', the losers were both the public and the law itself. The later is too precious to civilisation, to be tarnished by acts of political lobbying.

And making drugs legal doesn't mean approving of their use. People should be at liberty to hold prejudices against drug users; without actual offence. For example, employers should be free to stipulate no drug users; or counter staff can be at liberty to refuse services to those they have reason to believe are under the influence.

Skimmer said...

Yea, I’m a supported for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and am trying to win a few cops over on inspectorgadget comments page. With diamond hard arguments against prohibition, I hope I’m getting through.

thespecialone said...

Im totally against the legalisation of drugs. As I have commented on IG's blog, would the government really want to legalise that is harmful? Has Judi Dench been in a stink hovel where parents care more about their next fix rather than the kids? As for Ainsworth. When he was Defence Secretary he willingly sent young men and women to stop the Taleban and their drugs supplying and didn't mention anything then. What a fucking hypocritical twat he is. Try telling the families of young men who have died in Afghanistan that even though you sent them there to fight the Taleban, you really wish we could legalise drugs. Including the heroin which destroys lives.
As for your arguments skimmer, I have read them. You are entitled to your opinion. Why would the government want to allow something to be legalised that is very addictive. How many drug users become addicts? How many drinkers become alcoholics? Governments are supposed to protect its citizens. Allowing free use of harmful substances is not protecting people. One more thing. Do you think drug dealers are suddenly going to be criminals and get easy money if drugs are legalised? Maybe they will just go and get a job in Tescos instead!

thespecialone said...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1394210/Father-Oxbridge-hopeful-16-died-taking-Ecstasy-nightclub-blasts-security-staff.html

Single acts of tyranny said...

@thespecialone "Governments are supposed to protect its citizens" Says who? I am very happy to decide what I take and don't need Ainsworth or any other political sociopath deciding for me. Newsflash, I own and claim absolute sovereign rights over myself. And last time I checked, government had utterly failed in this endeavour anyway.

"Do you think drug dealers are suddenly going to be criminals and get easy money if drugs are legalised?" Well I am certainly in favour of abolishing job security for drug dealers. What would happen to them is akin to what happened to gangsters when alcohol prohibition was eneded in the USA or gambling was legalised in the UK. They lose a lucrative criminal business which passess into the mainstream.

Your second post refers to a poor kid who died on ecstasy. Do you know how people die on ecstasy? Tainted product. If Embassy were supplying the stuff, there would be quality control, currently criminal gangsters who this poor lad had to interact with to buy the tablets cut drugs with anyhting they fancy

StrangerHereMyself said...

Your logic is flawed, Jackart. You wrote on Inspector Gadget's blog that 'If alcohol is Legal, why is pot not?' However, this is as much an argument for prohibiting alcohol as anything else--and a public tired of those wallowing in alcohol-induced debauchery will likely become increasingly sympathetic to banning alcohol. Pointing to the failure of the 'war on drugs' is also problematic--the entire 'war on crime' is arguably failing: from 1901 to 2001 (using per-population ratios rather than raw numbers for a more accurate picture) homicides and attempted murders increased 138.58%; crimes of serious violence (including the latter homicides) increased 2,565.04%; rapes increased 4,653.76%; crimes of dishonesty (from robbery to fraud) increased 2,768.88%. If failure to achieve a goal is acceptable criteria to quit trying to achieve it, by that logic, you could advocate giving up enforcing any crime. But the obvious counter is that we are not enforcing various laws with the necessary rigour to be effective, and/or employing the wrong strategies. It is noteworthy that China enjoyed considerable success in suppressing opium use when willing to employ ruthless methods (1906-16 and post-1949).

Stranger Here Myself said...

Your logic is flawed, Jackart. You wrote on Inspector Gadget's blog that 'If alcohol is Legal, why is pot not?' However, this is as much an argument for prohibiting alcohol as anything else--and a public tired of those wallowing in alcohol-induced debauchery will likely become increasingly sympathetic to banning alcohol. Pointing to the failure of the 'war on drugs' is also problematic--the entire 'war on crime' is arguably failing: from 1901 to 2001 (using per-population ratios rather than raw numbers for a more accurate picture) homicides and attempted murders increased 138.58%; crimes of serious violence (including the latter homicides) increased 2,565.04%; rapes increased 4,653.76%; crimes of dishonesty (from robbery to fraud) increased 2,768.88%. If failure to achieve a goal is acceptable criteria to quit, by that logic, you could advocate giving up enforcing any crime. The obvious counter is that we are not enforcing various laws with the necessary rigour to be effective, and/or employing the wrong strategies. It is noteworthy that China enjoyed considerable success in suppressing opium use when willing to employ ruthless methods (1906-16 and post-1949).

Jackart said...

Strangerheremyself: "However, this is as much an argument for prohibiting alcohol as anything else--and a public tired of those wallowing in alcohol-induced debauchery will likely become increasingly sympathetic to banning alcohol"

1) banning alcohol worked Soooo well last time it was tried...

2) We live in a free society. That means banning stuff shouldn't be a default action. By all means lock up those who abuse freedoms to the detriment of others, but your recipie for a tea-total society is one I think rather unpleasant.

In any case: Millions of people smoke pot every week. Millions take E, coke etc... and they are noticable by their general absence from A&E departments.

You're simply wrong and it is your logic which is flawed.

Above all these things are illegal and they're widely avaialble. Your prescripition: More of the same? It's idiocy!

Gallovidian said...

You can't legalise drugs AND have a welfare state.

You can't legalise drugs AND have a free health service.

You can't legalise drugs AND have a soft legal system.

Choice time.

Jackart said...

You can't legalise drugs AND have a welfare state. Why not? Drugs are available on every welfare estate, what would change if they were legal?

You can't legalise drugs AND have a free health service. Why not? Most drugs are less harmful than alcohol, and any externalities can be dealt with in tax. IN any case, drugs are widely available now, what would change?

You can't legalise drugs AND have a soft legal system. Legalisation will take a lot of victimless crimes - supplying to willing purchasers off the statute books. The relationship between drugs and crime is a lazy one. It's complex, but legalisation wouldn't lead to a crime-strewn gomorrah. Perhaps legalisation, by taking supply and the profits therefrom out of the criminals hands, you have less profit to fight over.

Hard of thinking there, Gallovidian.

Stranger Here Myself said...

I agree, Jackart, that 'banning stuff shouldn't be a default action', but would like to see effort applied to reversing some of the more recent bans first, such as the handgun ban, for example.

Some questions, Jackart:

1. What do you envisage being the legal minimum age for the purchase and use of narcotics? Will it be a single minimum age for all narcotics (including heroin) or do you intend imposing different minimum ages for different drugs (i.e. one minimum age for marijuana and a different one for crack)?
2. What enforcement mechanisms do you intend to ensure your laws regarding minimum age are adhered to? What penalties do you anticipate being levelled at those violating your laws?
3. What do you believe the minimum levels of narcotic presence should be for driving under the influence? Currently police can test drivers for alcohol use with minimal inconvenience but the basic test for 'drug driving' is crude physical co-ordination tests. Are you comfortable with police conducting random tests as they currently do for alcohol--cars lined up as drivers wait their turn to walk up and down lines, stand on one leg, etc.? Drivers required to provide urine samples because a police officer spots a pack of '20 Hash' on the dashboard?
4. What about exporting narcotics? Are you going to prohibit that? If not, how do you think the rest of the world--Europe, the U.S., etc.--will react to your country cultivating and manufacturing narcotics and supplying it to their countries' criminals? Would you risk your libertarian utopia being deemed a pariah 'narco-state' by the international community and subject to sanctions? Your libertarian government being terminated by American, French, Russian and/or Chinese special forces to the relief of the remainder of the civilised world?
5. If you are going to prohibit the export of narcotics, how will you enforce that prohibition? Are you satisfied that the present effort at (unsuccessfully) stopping the import of drugs would have to remain in place--prosecuted with greater vigour, even--but now aimed at stopping the export? What penalties would you deem sufficient to deter and punish those exporting a substance that is otherwise legal to purchase, sell, cultivate and manufacture?
6. Are you not perturbed at the idea of narcotics--from marijuana to heroin--being advertised in a manner similar to alcohol? That similar adverts--many amusing and clever--could be aimed at promoting the sale and use of narcotics? ('Time for a sharp exit--time for a cool, sharp crack'; 'I bet he smokes skunk', etc.) Just as one now has '3-for-2' and 'buy A and get B free' deals, are you okay with sellers endeavouring to expand their market? That we might see signs in shops offering to the effect of 'Buy one sachet of heroin and get a rock of crack cocaine absolutely free'?
7. Are you content with manufacturers, just as they now expend effort to retain and expand their current markets by producing ever-better computer games, MP3-players, etc. with which people enjoy themselves, applying the same effort to create ever-better varieties of recreational pharmaceuticals?
8. Finally: assuming that you are serious about 'libertarianism' and would like to spread the philosophy outside of bourgeois liberal circles, do you really believe that drug-legalisation is the platform on which to do so? Do you really think those making up the majority in this country--the cleaners, bus drivers, plumbers, infantry soldiers, etc. (the ones with real jobs)--give a flying damn about legalising drugs? When they look around for someone with answers--to the daily crime, to why their country has turned its back on them--and they see you lined up next to the criminal-friendly Guardianista brigade--will they flock to your side?

Jackart said...

Stranger here myself:

You ask good questions, I've answered them here.

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