I see that Pete Docherty has broken his probation and is being sent to jug to mull over his wrong-doings. Many people will, of course, be saying, "well, what a good thing. He deserves to be in jail. Anyone else would be."
My attitude is a little more prosaic and it is simply this: if he wasn't a fucking drug addict when he goes in, he absolutely will be by the time he gets out.
There are several issues that annoy me here. First, how the bloody hell do politicians think that we can stamp out drugs in the wider community, if they can't even keep them out of the prisons? Seriously, what the hell?
Furthermore, can someone remind me why we are sending idiots like Docherty to prison? Let us, for the moment, leave aside the fact that he was, as I recall, driving under the influence and ask the following question: who has he actually hurt by his actions (apart from fools like Kate Moss, who chose to be around him)?
Why are we sending people to prison for possession of drugs? Or for taking them? Or for dealing them? Why the hell are certain drugs illegal?
And why on earth have our politicians failed to learn the very clear historical lesson that prohibition doesn't work.
Mr Power sums it up quite nicely when commenting on the fact that Gordon Brown is all set to ignore the review into drugs that he instigated with our damn money (how much has that review cost us, Gordon? In fact, perhaps we should put in an FoI request as to how much the monocular bastard's million billion reviews have already cost the taxpayer?).
Firstly, how many people will stop smoking dope because its a class B drug rather than a class C? Answer - none, of course! Most of the people that I have known over the years who smoked the stuff couldn't have told you whether it was class B or C and couldn't have cared less anyway. And where are you going to put all the people you are going to be banging up for possession, given that at any one time there seems to be only about 14 spare prison spaces available?
Look at the sums. There was a time, in my memory, when the total number of heroin 'addicts' in the entire UK numbered under 200. Again, in my lifetime, there was a time when mention of the word 'coke' referred only to a dark, sickly, carbonated sugary drink. Since that time, about 40 years ago, the use of both drugs has rocketed and the fact that they were not class C or B but A, carrying a possible maximum life sentence for possession, did absolutely nothing to slow this process down. Not to mention the huge takeup of Es, the spread of crack and the beginnings of a market in crystal meth.
What prohibition often does do is criminalise those who are otherwise law-abiding and who harm nobody else in the world with their consumption of these drugs.
As Bill Hicks said,
"What business is it of yours what I do, read, buy, see, say, think, who I fuck, what I take into my body—as long as I do not harm another human being on this planet?"
Let me tell you: it is none of your fucking business. And by "you", I mean the politicians, the state and you.
This attitude was backed up by a recent Institute of Economic Affairs book called Prohibitions [download PDF]. The publication is subtitled "Why outlawing particular goods and services is bad public policy" and amply details why this is the case; if a brief study of history has still left you feeling uncertain, I recommend reading it.
But this is an argument that is beginning to be heard. At the beginning of March, Camilla Cavendish wrote an excellent article in The Times that pointed out, amongst other things, that the illegality of drugs is far more harmful than the drugs themselves.
The most powerful role models are dealers, not celebrities. All over Britain, men in gold jewellery flaunt their wealth at school gates. Teachers tell me how hard it is to convince teenagers to get NVQs, when they can have a career with Drugs Inc and aspire to make £1,000 a day. Drugs Inc is one of the most profitable, successful businesses of all time. The UN values it at about $330 billion, almost as big as the defence industry. The criminals who run Drugs Inc shift staggering amounts of stock with no conventional advertising. They offer free samples to children and discounts for trading up to harder substances. They motivate their salesforce with threats.
As a result, drugs are now the second-largest revenue earner for organised crime. The profit margins, according to the Downing Street Strategy Unit, are higher than those on luxury goods. Drugs Inc pays no tax. And with so much money at stake, its barons are vicious. Violence has soared as rival gangs battle for a share of the profits.
We won't end this violence by jailing celebrities or middle-class users. The only way to take back our streets is to wrest back control of the drugs from the criminals, by legalising and regulating their trade.
Something similar happened in 1933, when America repealed Prohibition. The ban on alcohol had corrupted the police, increased the number of hard drinkers and created a whole new criminal class of bootleg suppliers. Britain's equivalent of Prohibition was the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971. Up to that time we had treated addiction as an illness, heroin addicts got their fix on prescription, and there were only 5,000 problematic drug users, according to Transform, the drug policy group. Thirty years on there are 280,000.
Many people wil say that more problem users will be the result of legalisation. They are morons. The number of people who take drugs numbers in the millions; the proportion of problem users is absolutely tiny.
But those numbers increase the more people that you jail. A jail sentence often means that you cannot get a job so we end up with yet more people on the dole, unable to find any kind of work; unable to benefit or improve themselves in any way at all. Often these people end up as drug pushers, or petty criminals of any other sort, because their criminal record means that few other avenues are open to them.
Cavendish's solution is the only sensible one: legalise the damn lot.
Imagine if you could buy coke from Boots. Or the aptly named Superdrug. That would drain the glamour from it more effectively than making a martyr of Kate Moss. I don't imagine her lovely features would adorn state-regulated packets of white powder, hanging next to the corn plasters. Yes, legalisation would make drugs cheaper, in order to undercut the dealers. Yes, usage might increase. But perhaps not much, because it is already widespread. A third of 16 to 24-year-olds routinely admit to having tried drugs, despite knowing that they are admitting to a crime.
The benefits of legalisation could be enormous. Overcrowded prisons would be relieved of people needing treatment rather than punishment (about 15 per cent of prisoners are in for possession or supply). Addicts would not be forced into associating with criminals. Children could be safe in Britain's playgrounds again.
Of course, it's not that simple because it is no longer our decision. We have passed much of that power over to unelected bureaucratic cunts with all of the common sense of a lump of playdough.
The irony is that it is the UN and its drug conventions that are the biggest barrier to progress. Its ideological war on drugs makes it almost impossible for countries to be pragmatic. It has demanded that Portugal, which decriminalised possession, should recant. Yet Portugal has accepted the reality that in GDP terms, it is dwarfed by Drugs Inc. As a result, it has seen crime fall.
The only way to make our streets safe is to wipe Drugs Inc off the map. The only way to do that is to legalise the trade. That would also redraw the map, because drug lords from Colombia to Afghanistan would no longer find the trade so lucrative. The UN's blindness to this is unforgivable: even worse than its failure to understand that Amy Winehouse, despite her beautiful voice, is the perfect health warning.
Not only that but the drug barons might actually be able to go legal. One might find that there would be considerably less shootings, killings and general uprisings in South America, were that to happen.
But even if drugs were legalised, people have said to me, the illegal pushers would try to undercut the legal market. So what? I firmly believe that most people would buy their drugs legally. Why?
Because money is not the only factor in this transaction. Let us say that I could get a gram of cocaine of a dealer for £40, and it cost £50 in Superdrug; I would still buy it in Superdrug because in that way I don't risk all of the associated problems of going to an unlicensed dealer (and yes, I see shops being licensed to sell drugs in much the same way that shops are licensed to sell booze). In Superdrug, I can know that I am getting a pure product; in Superdrug I am not associating with dodgy people (a thing to be avoided in general); in Superdrug I am not going to risk prison for buying the damn drug.
Save lives, save careers and stop ignoring the lessons of history: legalise drugs.
P.S. To all of those people I know who use drugs but who believe that we shouldn't legalise them because "some people can't cope" or some such excuse: stop being so fucking patronising.