I find it’s always the people most adamantly in favour for the continuation of the criminalisation of drugs that would benefit from them the most. They need to have a special brownie and calm down before the unjustified sense of indignation inevitably ends in a brain aneurysm. It’s not hard to see why there is still so much unfounded antipathy towards drugs when you take in to account all the propaganda that permeates the media. ‘Talk to frank’ with their endless idiotic tales of drug use gone awry is just one example.
Everyone’s favourite president, Richard Nixon and his declaration of the war on drugs back in the 70s was not the start of amoral implementations of prohibition policies but it certainly is an important time in the history with regards to narcotics. The war on drugs costs the UK nearly £17 billion a year, sends working class people and minorities to prison disproportionately, has little to no effect on drug availability or use, funds drug cartels, prevents people from receiving legitimate medicine and does very little to help addicts.
Ok so there’s quite a few accusations there and I’m probably sounding like an embittered junkie who just got his gear confiscated, but there’s a significant amount of evidence backing those accusations up and with regards to my drug habits I very much relate to what Bill Hicks once said “I used to do drugs, quit, now have nothing against them”
The bottom line is that drugs are a problem, no one’s disputing that, well…I know a few people who dispute that but they’re always high as a kite. However the current policies and ideology with regards to legislation, is ineffective and parochial at best or severely and intentionally discriminatory at worst. What suggests that it is the latter is the fact that there is a large amount of information about the ramifications that will occur from the different actions taken to combat the drug problem. This information makes the ramifications predictable. So the effects of the current policies must be intentional.
As well as the evidence about the effects of decriminalizing drugs collected from Portugal, the RAND Corporation and the US army have done numerous studies on the matter. Noam Chomsky has spoken about this and has highlighted the fact that there is more than one way for a country to deal with drugs (no pun intended). One way, the most cost efficient and effective way is education, prevention and treatment. Another, which is more costly and less effective, is the use of police and interdiction. The last and worst way is as Chomsky puts it, essentially “chemical warfare”, which basically consists of bombing South American farmers.
Each of these tactics have been studied and the effects of each are predictable. We know the consequences that will occur if we carry on obstinately adhering to the idea that cocaine is scraped straight from the sea bed of the river Styx by Satan himself, so thusly must be kept illegal, along with all the other substances also collected from equally sepulchral locations by equally as sinister characters.
The first consequence is that the working class and minorities are discriminated against. This is an obvious by-product of prohibition which historically speaking has always targeted the working class. Russell Brand is spot on when talking about drug legislation he said “the policy around it is really about criminalizing a percentage of the population that in a post-industrial age, where there is no manufacturing industry, are sort of fucking irrelevant. So you might as well put them in privatised prisons”.
Also in Britain blacks are more than 6 times as likely to be stopped and searched than whites and are sentenced at a rate 4 to 4.5 times more than whites for drug offences. However the rate of drug use for blacks and whites is almost identical.
Basically what this amounts to is, if you’re someone like Philip Green (rich white guy) you can snort as much coke as you want to, using £50 notes you managed to save by not paying any taxes, but if you’re a poor black boy with a cheeky bit of weed, that’s it your nicked.
Prohibition as well as being inherently racist also has the slight tendency to sometimes, maybe, just a little bit…financially aid brutal gangs of murderers and rapists…yeah, not a small problem. All you have to do is look at what’s going on in Mexico, with the drug cartels becoming such an issue that the citizens have started vigilante groups to fight back. Like hundreds of Hispanic batmanesque characters cruisin’ in los Gotham. Or just look at the prohibition of alcohol in America, what did that lead to? The rise of the mafia.
Virtually the only thing Milton Friedman has ever said that I agree with is “the child who is shot in a drive by shooting is an innocent victim in every respect. The person who decides for himself to take drugs is not an innocent victim”.
Keeping drugs illegal under the pretence of protecting the individual just leads to the death of other more innocent individuals, at the behest illegal coteries that engage in not just the drug trade but also sex tariffing, as well as other nefarious activities.
Also when drugs are criminalised they’re unregulated. There isn’t some health obsessed guy in each gang, like some sort of Tony Montana with OCD, assiduously checking all his gear for potentially harmful contaminations, in-between murders. I imagine what actually goes down is something like “hey, if we add a combination of glass, tuberculosis and global warming in this batch we could triple profits…sweet”.
Another aspect surrounding drugs is medicine, in particular medical marijuana, which remains illegal in Britain. This topic always reminds me of what Katt Williams said “aspirin is perfectly legal but if you take 13 of them motherfuckers it will be your last headache”. The amount of medical benefits cannabis has is astounding. In fact, I won’t be surprised when Snoop Dogg is 150 years old and able to do a backflip of a futuristic flying Ferrari whilst simultaneously rolling a joint, there are that many benefits. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s some botanical panacea. Some horticultural, ambrosia like inhalant granting the power to deify whoever smokes it, but it certainly isn’t a useless nostrum.
Take just a couple of cases, from America where medicinal marijuana is legal. Firstly let’s look at Matt and Paige Figi and their daughter Charlotte. Charlotte was born with Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy. She would have up to 300 seizures a week. It got to the point where her brain stopped growing, which as you can imagine started causing severe problems. No medicine worked until out of options, her parents started feeding her cannabis, prescribed by a doctor, in the form of oil they put in her food. She went from 300 seizures a week to 2-3 seizures A MONTH!
Another case is Jacqueline Patterson, there’s a video on youtube showing how much weed helps her that you should watch. Jacqueline suffers from cerebral palsy and without smoking weed it is incredibly difficult for her to speak or control her movement. After she smokes though the difference is almost unbelievable. The only signs of a stutter are the occasional tremulous intonations on certain words.
Denying people like this is not just an unfortunate inconvenience for them it’s significantly affecting their lives. Keeping what is a legitimate medicine from them is morally obscene.
I know, prohibitionists will say decriminalization will increase use and drugs are dangerous so the government needs to stop people doing them. Firstly, if the government cared even in the slightest about your wellbeing tobacco would not be legal. What kills more people than all illicit substances combined? Yeah, smoking. But you can still smoke no problem. However I don’t even think it’s about how dangerous the drug is, it’s none of the governments business. It’s like Doug Stanhope says “your body is private property” or to quote Russell Brand again “peoples personal freedoms, if they’re not impeding on others, is not the business of the state”. Now this is where prohibitionists say ‘yeah but you expect the NHS to look after you if things go wrong’….yeah I do. Just like I expect the doctors to revive someone who had a heart attack form going to Mc Donald’s on a quotidian basis. If you pay taxes then you should get free health care whether the injury is self-caused or not. But even the other statement commonly thrown about, that decriminalisation increases drug use has no evidence supporting it.
Portugal decriminalised all drugs in 2001. Glenn Greenwald has done a study about it for the CATO institute, ‘Drug decriminalisation in Portugal, lessons for creating fair and successful drug policies’. He found that drug use actually went down slightly. In Portugal it is still prohibited for children to have drugs but if you’re an adult you can possess enough for personal use. Also as it just so happens, if you don’t spend all your money throwing people in prison you have a lot more to spend actually trying to help them. As Greenwald has stated it costs too much money to do both, it’s either prosecution and penitentiary or prevention and treatment.
Clean needles and rooms to shoot up in are also provided in Portugal. This lowers HIV infections and offers medical support to addicts. When you start treating addiction as a health problem rather than a crime society seems to benefit. To quote Glenn Greenwald “judging by every metric, decriminalisation has been a resounding success”.
The prohibition argument is based on nothing but speculation and hypocrisy. Criminalizing drugs is not an attempt to protect peoples health because tobacco and alcohol, which cause far more deaths, are legal. Drug use doesn’t increase when decriminalised. Every proclaimed objective for the war on drugs is not being met. However economical and racial prejudices are intrinsic to current policy in the UK and the US. Crime is increased both here and abroad from cartels. Money is wasted prosecuting and imprisoning people. And all this is entirely predictable. So the question is, is this actually intended to be a war on drugs or is it just a form of social cleansing, by disposing of the ‘useless’ people in society who don’t affect wealth gain and are just a surplus in population? The war on drugs has been declared again and again with no effect on drugs at all but having a detrimental effect on the less privileged in society. So the only logical conclusion is that this must be the intention. All the victims of gangs and all the people who can’t get medicine are purely ancillary.
BY: Daniel Thomas