So ketamine alternative, Mexxy is to be banned (No, I'd not heard of it either...) because it might have killed a couple of chaps from Melton Mobray. Just as Cocaine substitute, Miaow Miaow was banned for much the same reason. Of course no-one has proved that Mexxy or Miaow Miaow are responsible for those deaths, how prevalent the usage is, or indeed what the risks are. They are "associated with" deaths. Just as hospital admissions by people who have been drinking, but for whom drink is not the cause of the admission are still recorded as "alcohol-related" to please purse-lipped puritans who want to prove that our recreational self-medication is harmful, whatever the real evidence might be.
No doubt, pharmacology graduates working right now in laboratories in the Netherlands are testing new and exciting compounds to get people high, which may or may not kill their users. They then enjoy a few months or years profits until someone in a shirt, who thinks Cocaine is dangerous, cottons on that people are enjoying a mind-altering substance, and suggests to a Politician, who is voted for by Daily Mail readers, that it should be banned.
Crime Prevention Minister Lord Henley said: "Making this drug illegal sends a clear message to users and those making and supplying it that we are stepping up our fight against substances which are dangerous and ruin the lives of victims and their families.""A clear message"? When Cocaine is more available (if you know whom to ask) at 11:01 on a Wednesday night than alcohol? Of course, we don't know the toxicity of Mexxy, because it hasn't been rigorously tested. We do know the Toxicity of Cocaine, Amphetamines, Ecstasy or THC. They're all considerably lower than that of Alcohol. Lord Henley again:
"It is important for users of these harmful substances to understand that just because they are described as legal highs, it does not mean they are safe or should be seen as a 'safer' alternative to illegal substances."Quite. We just don't know the safety of "legal highs" because it is assumed by law-makers that getting high is bad, a priori, and a "legal high" is therefore by definition always operating in a legal grey area. Of course Cocaine IS dangerous but only under long-term, habitual use. Just like booze. But Coca, the leaves chewed for millennia by Inca to ward off fatigue and altitude sickness, are not dangerous. Indeed the medicinal properties are well known. The reason no-one takes Coca in the west is that the leaves are too hard to transport and would command a fraction of the price of Cocaine Hydrochloride. I reckon a fair chunk of the coke used in the west is by people who'd rather drink coca tea and enjoy a stimulating effect similar to that available at Starbucks, without the heatburn and need to remember whether 'Vente' means 'Medium' or 'Large'.
Qat, which has an effect very similar to Coca, but hails from the Arabian peninsula and Horn of Africa, is currently legal (go somewhere there are lots of Somalis and WASH THE LEAVES before you chew) but may be banned. To what end. To what end were "magic mushrooms" banned?
The insanity of our Drug laws is that people are denied demonstrably safe products, like clean cocaine, Coca and Cannabis. Means by which the already safe Cocaine, or Cannabis could be made even less harmful are prevented by their illegality. Legal products like Qat are denied the sophisticated treatment of a western supply-chain and are not as safe as they could be. Heroin users in particular are gambling with a respiratory depressant of long known effects, but are forced to experiment with a product of unknown strength, as a direct result of the drugs' illegality. Most Overdose deaths occur when an abnormally strong batch hits the streets. People either take the risk of the illegal supply-chain with poor quality control, or take the risk with untested substances which may be more harmful than the natural product which is only unavailable because of a stupid law.
Now you could argue, as most drug warriors do, that the users don't have to take drugs and so are to blame. And that is of course true. But other people rarely operate as one wants. Some people like booze, others weed. Some work hard, others do the bare minimum. Would the world really be better if we all ate our greens and worked hard, drinking only our (entirely unsuported by evidence) recommended 21 units a week?
The answer is, of course, no. Without booze & drugs, we'd have no Rock 'n Roll to pick a trivial example. People take mind-altering substances, including booze, because they derive "utility" from doing so. What, apart from unthinking habit, is the reason for allowing people to drink a substance which is extremely toxic, emetic in lower doses, is perceived to be a dis-inhibitor, which means it is cited as a reason for most Friday night violence; while denying them a substance of lower psychoactivity, which causes few social problems? I am of course talking about Booze and Weed. Why is one allowed and the other not?
The answer is power and politics. People with power disapprove of people getting high in a way of which they disapprove. A couple of pints and a Chilean merlot with your steak - fine. Pass a spliff round afterwards, not fine. A circular argument has been created: Drugs are illegal, so users of drugs risk having their lives ruined by draconian law-enforcement, so "Drugs ruin lives". QED. Now so much has been invested by the powerful in the policy of prohibition up to and including international treaties, that it is an extremely long process for the powerful to admit their policy is wrong. The war on Drugs is simply an unthinking habit of the political/law enforcement/medical complex, all of which has a vested interest in continued prohibition. All "expert" opinion is drawn from this. Organised crime has been gifted the most profitable business in history. The Mafia's not complaining. The stoner, psychonaut, raver, partier simply don't exist in the drug literature. No-one is asking users (as opposed to addicts).
This is like judging a magnum of Chateau mouton Rothschild '54 with a hand painted lable by Salvador Dali by its effect on a smack-addled self-arguer in your local underpass.
In the mean-time, because a few substances do fun (and not particularly healthy) things to one's brain & body, there will be a demand for them, but they will be banned with the full might of the law. And the law of supply and demand, added to the contrary nature of people when told to not do something naughty, creates a mighty demand slope where Cocaine hydrochloride can be produced in the Andean Jungle for pennies and sold in New York for Thousands. And like Canute standing before the tide, they fail to stop the supply, but kill tens of thousands and lay waste continents in their attempt to stop brute economics.
Politics simply cannot defy economics and make water flow uphill. The "war on drugs" is exactly like the 20th century left's attempts to defy the economic law of supply and demand. The result - a huge pile of corpses - is exactly the same. Libertarianism: Applying the right's economic logic to the social sphere. Individual freedom both economic and social is always right, even if you dissaprove of what they do with it.