It is the legislation, not the drugs that don’t work

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Photo by Valeria Everett

Picture the scene. Lab tests indicate that a certain batch of olives contain the dangerous toxin botulinum. The Food Standards Agency advises that they are immediately withdrawn from sale in the UK, only for the Department of Health to ignore their own experts’ opinion and refuse to remove the items. Cue outrage and no doubt confusion amongst the public.

Now replace food safety experts with the experts which make up the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and this is a common occurrence, with the Home Office happy to report its rejection of its own official advice. If we can’t trust the government to make an informed decision for us then surely the next step is to allow us the freedom to make an independent decision.

The answer to why the Home Office adopts this stance centres around their idea of the so called ‘War on Drugs’. This June, the Global Commission on Drugs Policy released a damning report declaring that “the global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” Unfortunately the damage is done; aggressive indoctrination has worked and the mere mention of drugs can cause some to recoil in horror, often whilst sipping a glass of wine. Many will point blank refuse to consider any alternative argument and selectively group drugs into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ categories usually based upon government classifications. This is misguided enough in casual debate but when our politicians and judges refuse to acknowledge clear evidence it can have disastrous consequences.

The ‘War on Drugs’ has led to almost omnipotent bureaucracies which have the right to break into our homes, smash down our doors, humiliate us and tarnish the rest of our lives with criminal records, and for what? Continuing the ancient practice of altering our state of mind? By all means if by doing so we cause danger to others, then the judicial system has a role to play, and can do so, using the appropriate laws; however policing anti-social behaviour is one thing, transgressing to the consciousness of a free human being is most definitely another.

Recreational drugs have arrived and they are here to stay, no amount of taxpayers’ money can change this. It’s time to rethink: instead of wasting our money on an impossible war we should be minimizing harm, providing education based on unbiased and objective information on the real risks of drugs.

What’s more, prohibition is actually worse for us. For example, take the recent furore over mephedrone. Amongst the media frenzy an interesting trend was discovered. Due to the effects of mephedrone closely mimicking that of cocaine, surveys found that cocaine use dropped as users changed to the cheaper, safer and legal option. Released figures state that during the year in which mephedrone was widely used, deaths associated with cocaine poisoning dropped dramatically, whilst to date not a single death has been linked solely to mephedrone.

By continuing with prohibition not only did mephedrone stop decreasing cocaine related deaths but it moved the drug from accountable (if not ethical) businesses to drug dealers, consequently causing the price to skyrocket, the quality to drop, and crime to rise. Nice work. Amazingly just last week there were calls for all new legal highs to be banned immediately, in a catch all attempt at reducing our freedom and pushing the drugs into the dangerous black market.

The hypocrisy is incredible. David Cameron is all too happy to sit back and watch dreams thwarted by drug charges yet when asked if he ever dabbled responded “I did lots of things before I came into politics…We all did.” Boris Johnson proclaimed “of course I’ve taken drugs!” and even Barack Obama joked about his marijuana past. So trying drugs did not culminate in our leaders becoming benefit leeching layabouts, so why are we being given conflicting messages?

All that I am advocating is a drugs policy based on evidence not exaggeration. Again drugs can be harmful, but the current drug laws are doing nothing to help reduce these dangers. In fact by forcing drugs into the black market it increases their damage, whether through the countless massacres at the hands of rival drug cartels, the reduction in quality, or via expensive prison sentences. The need for drug policy reform is at an all-time high.

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