Thursday, December 16, 2010

Drugged, again

As regular readers will know, your humble Devil has taken quite substantial amounts of drugs—of almost every type other than heroin. Your humble Devil also knows a number of people—the vast majority of my friends, in fact—who have regularly taken all classes of drugs.

And, generally speaking, the outcome has been hours and hours of fun, laughter, warming visions and a sense of connection. I will assert, with confidence, that the vast majority of those who take drugs have a great time. I do not know of anyone who has lost a job or a girlfriend through drug-use, nor of anyone who has harmed anyone else through drug use (other than alcohol, of course).

I will also say, from experience, that many drugs are self-limiting. Take Ecstasy regularly, for instance, and the beneficial effects reduce in intensity quite steeply—to the point that it becomes pointless.

However, the human desire to get out of one's tree occasionally is always there: in other words, demand is not going to go away. Although many people assert that the very illegality of drugs creates extra demand through the forbidden fruit factor.

On the flip side, I do know that the illegality of drugs means that the supply is entirely controlled by criminals. This criminal control leads to turf wars, shooting, robberies, and other low- and high-level violence.

Further, the criminals cut the drugs with adulterants, in order to make further profits. These adulterants cause injury to drug consumers in two ways: first, the adulterants can be actively harmful, e.g. heroin is often cut with brick dust, thus clogging capillaries in intravenous users and leading to gangrene and limb amputation.

Second, the level of adulterants in the drug vary; one of the most common causes of the occasional spates of heroin user deaths is through overdose caused by a batch of unusually pure drug on the market.

Finally, there is the economic cost of the war on drugs—which is running at something like £20 billion per annum. And that does not include the cost of criminalising and imprisoning thousands of people who have harmed no one but themselves.

So, in the context of the points made above, I find myself in the awful position of having to agree with that idiot, Bob Ainsworth.
An ex-minister who had responsibility for drugs policy has called for all drugs to be legally available.

Bob Ainsworth, a Home Office minister under Tony Blair, said successive governments' approaches had failed, leaving criminal gangs in control.

The Coventry North East MP wants to see a system of strict legal regulation, with different drugs either prescribed by doctors or sold under licence.

Well, that is entirely sensible. In fact, I seem to remember a number of Tories—when in Opposition—pointing out that the war on drugs is failing and that it was time to look at different methods. And the response when back in power?
Mr Ainsworth is the most senior politician so far to publicly call for all drugs, including heroin and cocaine, to be in any way legalised.

He said he realised while he was a minister in the Home Office in charge of drugs policy that the so-called war on drugs could not be won.

The Labour backbencher said successive governments had been frightened to raise the issue because they feared a media backlash.

Which just goes to show that politicians are not heroes, bravely making those difficult decisions that will best benefit the people of this country, but simply grubby little snake-oil salesmen—hungry for adulation—who are only out for their own benefit at the expense of everyone else.
But he predicted in the end ministers would have no option but to adopt a different approach.

The simple fact is that the case for the legalisation and regulation of drugs is absolutely irrefutable, on both a practical and moral level. And it seems that Nick Clegg and, most pertinently, David Cameron recognised this fact and, when in Opposition, wanted to change it.
David Cameron, the Tory leadership contender, believes the UN should consider legalising drugs and wants hard-core addicts to be provided with legal "shooting galleries" and state-prescribed heroin.

He also supported calls for ecstasy to be downgraded from the class-A status it shares with cocaine and heroin and said it would be "disappointing" if radical options on the law on cannabis were not looked at.

Well, quite. Although, it was inevitable that some would object.
Ann Widdecombe, the former Home Office minister who is supporting Kenneth Clarke for the Tory leadership, criticised Mr Cameron's views and said that legalising drugs would only encourage use.

"This is a grossly misled view that will have very damaging consequences for society," she said. "Most Conservatives would make the case that legalisation is misguided. If you legalise hard drugs you would effectively be making the state give first-time users their first experience.

"It's just not an option. And the World Health Organisation is against it."

Well, generally, if the WHO is against it, I am going to argue for it vociferously.

And the puritanical Ann Widdecombe's assertion that legalising hard drugs "would effectively be making the state give first-time users their first experience" is so stupid an assertion that one wonders what on earth Widdecombe thought that she was saying. Mind you, much as I admire her honesty in respect of the expenses scandal (she was "clean"), Ann Widdecombe's personal judgement is very ropey—if it weren't, she would never have even dreamed of going on Strictly Come Dancing.

But, I digress: in 2005, Dave thought that the ludicrously expensive and ineffective war on drugs should be abandoned in favour of a more sensible policy—and the LibDems concurred in 2006. So, why—a mere five years later—has Dave and his cronies so ready to dismiss the recommendations of Ainsworth (OK, yes; but in this case the idiot's right)?
"David Cameron deserves our utmost respect and admiration for refusing the 'war on drugs' rhetoric in calling for a discussion of legalisation with the UN body that oversees global prohibition," said Danny Kushlick, the director of the Transform Drug Policy Foundation. He added: "Too many politicians support the status quo because of careerism."

Ah, yes. Careerism.

I suspect that Kushlick's 2005 comment may well contain the truth about why Cameron is prepared to condemn hundreds of thousands of people to lives of misery and ill-health, to punish and condemn thousands of people who have harmed precisely nobody, and to continue to spend billions of pounds of our money on an ineffective "war" that merely promotes violent criminality—and which has had not the slightest material impact on the availability of drugs.

Unfortunately, the egregious James Brokenshire—a man whom we have met before, spouting illiberal horseshit about alcohol—has decided to take issue with Bob Ainsworth's entirely sensible (although suspiciously motivated) suggestion.
Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire said: "Drugs are harmful and ruin lives - legalisation is not the answer.

Yes, James: drugs do ruin a few lives even though they are illegal and have been (entirely) since 1971. So, if prohibition works, why are drugs still ruining lives?

And what, precisely, is your prescription—more of the same, is it? You moron.
"Decriminalisation is a simplistic solution that fails to recognise the complexity of the problem and ignores the serious harm drug taking poses to the individual.

It is not the state's job to tell me what I may or may not do with my own body, you authoritarian bastard! It is my body, not yours.
"Legalisation fails to address the reasons people misuse drugs in the first place or the misery, cost and lost opportunities that dependence causes individuals, their families and the wider community."

But, as we have established above, it does address the issues of purity and crime, thus leading to far less misery than is currently the case.

I get tired of saying this—I continue to do so simply because people do not seem to have got the message—but there really is only one sensible solution and, as successful as Portugal's decriminalisation has been, legalisation is a far better option.

Why? Because, in Portugal, the supply of drugs is still in the hands of criminals (and of the criminals who grow the drugs in other countries), and so the problems of adulteration still exist. And, whilst the emphasis is on rehabilitation rather than incarceration, one can still be criminalised for harming no one but yourself.

As I have said time and time again, the only sensible answer is education, legalisation and regulation. It's nice to see that Bob Ainsworth realises this—what a pity he didn't think to do anything about it when he had the power to do so.

In the meantime, despite their earlier rhetoric, it seems that the Tories and the LibDems are going to carry on the tradition—exemplified so well by NuLabour—of talking a good game in Opposition but toeing the same, pathetic, harmful and utterly discredited line in office.

No, our politicians are not heroes making the difficult decisions on our behalf—they are spineless toadies to media such as The Daily Hate, making decisions to further their own advantage and stuffing ordinary people for a few column inches.

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