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

(1) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/britains-illegal-drugs-trade-worth-pound8bn-a-year-758914.html
(2) http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2009/11/27094202

3 comments:

Wormit Steve said...

Found this in my hunt for news...
http://www.ayrshirepost.net/ayrshire-news/local-news-ayrshire/ayr-news/2009/12/04/ayr-headshop-selling-drugs-paraphernalia-102545-25304140/

When you criminalize you force people to look elsewhere or go underground.

Steve

Wormit Steve said...

Seems criminalization doesn't always work and forces it into the shady side (also increasing price due to the government's intervention into the supply/demand equation). Take a look at these two "raids".

http://www.dunfermlinepress.com/news/roundup/articles/2009/12/03/394730-drugdealing-kelty-brothers-jailed-for-three-years-each/

http://www.dunfermlinepress.com/news/roundup/articles/2009/12/04/394800-four-in-court-after-west-fife-cannabis-factory-raid/

Marcus said...

Drugs aren't for everyone and that's the problem. I remember when I was younger I used to partake in a 'toke' of the old 'paki-black' as it was known. It was a very mild hash, that seemed to be in everyone's pocket at the time. Upon getting to London though it was a grass market. And of course this was where much of the hydroponically grown cannabis/skunk was, which tests have proven develop skunk psychosis.

I'm 100% behind being in charge of your own body and the government has no right whatsoever to take it for themselves, although I must say that the thought of someone, high as a kite, coming into work and doing a job, putting others at risk does somewhat worry me.

I remember going to the pub at lunch time and regularly knowcking down about 4-5 pints of Lager easily. I knew my limits and always performed well, however how many actually do and are prepared to be honest about being too pissed, stoned, smacked up to perform well?

This of course then leads to the drug testing, which I loathe, but then how else do you safeguard lives? If there is no ban put on, then what happens when people continue to get smashed off of their heads resulting in a terrible maming accident or worse death?

We certainly need to bring back an age of responsiblity as our new society is wrapped up in cotton wool protected by the nanny state, but I've seen the after effects of people who are 'off their head' and the damage that can be done in the workplace.

There obviously needs to be a happy medium but then who's prepared to bend and give? It should be a case of don't take drugs at work but then what about those who are quite able to work after a couple of drinks or a spliff? I certainly don't think it's fair that because of a few unable to hold their drink, spliff everyone else should suffer as in today's society under NuLabour.

We need better education on drugs and I do agree legalisation. It would after all give a much needed injection into the public purse. The only problem again with that is that we know that high levels of crime are solely attributed on junkies getting their next fix. How do we solve this problem?

It's a tough dilemma. We can't take away drugs as it's non libertarian, but then we know that some drugs, predominately the man made variety are just bad not just for the person but affect society as a whole and wreck many people's lives.

Cannabis should be legalised, but then how do we filter out the stronger hydroponically grown skunk which can be up to 30 times and more stronger than normal natural grass? I've seen the effects of skunk psychosis and it's really not nice. I tell people to stay away from it, because to me it's like putting your hand in a mincer. I will affect you eventually.

It's a very tricky subject indeed. Drugs do wreck lives.