Sunday, 20 December 2009

Tis the season of giving afterall

I thought it might be interesting to direct everyones attention to this Daily Telegraph article that appeared several days ago. I find it particularly interesting that this story did not appear to be picked up by most of the mainstream media as far as Im aware of. Which given the the recent scrutiny of of Westminster MP's expenses I found worrying indeed.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

A Case for the Legalisation of Drugs

When discussing libertarianism with people I find that one of the most common issues that crops up is the use of recreational drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. As a result I have collated a group of important points that I always try to put forward to people to explain why the legalisation of drugs is infact both practical and far more sensible than the current “war on drugs”.

A fundamental libertarian belief is that you own your body and that the government should not be allowed to dictate what you do with it. Can it be morally defensible for a distant third party to have the right to instruct you as to what you can or cannot personally ingest?

For many years the answer to this by those in power has been an emphatic yes, despite most academic research pointing to cannabis being no more harmful than alcohol or nicotine and is certainly far less addictive. What all authoritarian governments fail to realise however is that they cannot control all aspects of the market and no matter how hard they try, they cannot police every aspect of an individual’s personal life. This is where many of the current problems with drugs begin. The crushing of legitimate outlets for substances that produce highs, yet at the same time the demand for these highs remaining in place always results in a large increase in black markets.

It is from these black-markets that most of Britain’s modern day drug problems occur. Often people confuse crime caused by the supply of illegal drugs under a black market as being because of the drugs themselves.

The total amount that that Britons spend on illegal drugs amounts to £8 billion per year (1) , to put this figure into perspective, it equates to 40% of the alcohol trade in Britain. All of these sales currently go straight into funding criminal gangs. Imagine how many legitimate jobs that the legalisation of drugs would create through the growing and distribution of these substances. The idea that prohibition fuels organised crime is nothing new, it is now universally accepted that the prohibition of alcohol by the US government and the subsequent rise in those buying it on the black market was what funded the rise in inner city gangs and organised crime in the 1920s. With these gangs comes the increase in other forms of crimes that are often confused for being the reason to prohibit the use of drugs in the first place.

It is often stated that cannabis is sold in stronger strains than ever before and that as a result, any potential health risks are far greater than ever before. The public have then been led to believe that this is exactly why the government and police must increase their efforts to keep it off our streets. This is infact a totally fallacy, if cannabis (or any other drug for that matter) were legalised and produced by legitimate companies, then consumers would be able to see what strain they were buying, the purity of the drug and much more consumer information that is now shown on all products such alcohol and processed foods. Again, countries with strict alcohol licensing laws prove this to be the case. Those that purchase alcoholic drinks on the black market face far greater health risks such as alcohol poisoning and going blind.

A common argument used by those against the legalisation of recreational drugs is that it is proven to lead those users into other forms of crime. Again while statistics show that currently true, it is again purely down to the fact that in order to access recreational drugs, consumers must now be in contact with criminals were they would have never choose to before. Many drug dealers now impose a “minimum purchase” in order make users by far more than they can afford thus forcing these users to start dealing to others.

With the government’s war on drugs has come a huge divergence of resources from other areas of law and order. Many thousands of police and court hours are used up trying to catch and prosecute users and dealers. Currently 14% of those serving sentences in the Scotland are for drug convictions (2) despite prison numbers bursting at the seams. How can this situation possibly be justifiable when these resources could be put such better use? Lengthening the convictions for rape for example; which frankly are currently nothing less than a national disgrace.

The final and most potent “nail in the coffin” on Britain’s drugs policy is the simple truth that despite all the millions that are spend trying to keep drugs off our streets is the simple truth that anyone who wants to get them can do if they are willing to look for them.

I would like to conclude by stating that often those who are against any form of legalisation are not doing so because that they are frightened that they themselves would end up taking drugs, they realise that they themselves are rational human beings and are capable of making their own decisions. No, instead it is a fear that other people would not be able to manage these decisions for themselves and it is for the “greater good” that others need to be protected.

I hope this helps many of you to put forward the case for the legalisation of drugs to the general public and will encourage people to question governmental policies with greater scrutiny nomatter how well established these policies may be.

Duncan Soutar
Scottish National Coordinator