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November 26, 2008

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Huw O'Sullivan

There is no reason to believe that legalising cannabis or any other drug would reduce its use.
There was no reason to think when cannabis was downgraded to class c that there would be a reduction in use nor was there a reason to think that its use would boom.
Those who opposed its downgrading to class c,those who wish to be seen to be "strong" on drugs, told us that its use would increase. As we now know it did not increase, that it decreased does not really matter, it simply once again pointed out the irrational and unfounded views of those who support prohibition and a "strong stand against drugs".
Cannabis is in much the same position as alcohol during prohibition times. Anyone who wants it can get it easily. So just as with alcohol during prohibition its illegality simply generates revenue for criminals while criminalising the citizens who wish and choose to use cannabis.

Problem 1 is the benefits to criminal gangs of any prohibition laws.
They make them rich and powerful, the first group to oppose legalisation would be the gangsters.

Problem 2 would be the potentially harmful misuse of drugs.
Cannabis doesn't really cause many problems,
not with addiction, not with effects on mental health, not with quality of life, so if legalised, it would make sense for it to be sold through standard legitimate channels
although it would also make sense to ensure that all parts of the channel are legitimate
a typical political type error the Dutch are only beginning to address now.

If we were talking about more dangerous drugs like heroin or if we choose to pretend that cannabis has similar dangers.
Then once the criminal gangs are removed from the scene, we have a situation where we do not have people pushing drugs, trying to get people hooked on drugs to be future sources of revenue. We could then offer educational help to discourage people from taking up bad habits, we could offer programmes to help people come off addictive and/or dangerous drugs. We would have accurate figures relating to drug use when we are no longer turning ordinary citizens into criminals for using drugs other than alcohol and tobacco and we would have greater control over where sources are sited and where these drugs are used.
There would be fewer people in prison and fewer passing through the courts.
What expenses there are could probably be easily covered through raising some tax on those drugs that are safe enough to be sold through standard channels, like cannabis.
In other words
the only way to deal with the drug problem,
where people get addicted and destroy their lives is to removed our heads from the sand and stop pretending that criminalising these people will help anyone other than criminal gangs in any way whatsoever.
It surely must be time that we dealt with drug problems as adults by legislating for a desired result rather than against what we do not understand.

Paul Flynn

Many thanks John.

That's a great clear statement on the conventional foolishness on drugs. The drugs laws are killing people.

John

I think we need to put our cards on the table here, and for me there are 2 unalterable immovable objects as far as drugs are concerned 1) no drug is perfectly safe 2) Humans will always take drugs no civilisation has been without some intoxicant off some kind.
Taking these 2 premises as given we have to ensure that those citizens who will choose to use drugs do so with the least potential to harm.
THis means ensuring the purity, quality and strength of the drug so minimising the harm presently caused by adulterants and unknown strength in street drugs. This is the biggest cause of death and illness from present drug use.
We need to empower our citizens to make responsible choices about there drug use not treat them like children.This means education and information about use. Just as we have done with tobacco we have provided health information we have banned advertising,placed warnings on the packages and increased the price. Tobacco is probably the most addictive deadliest drug available to us yet millions have given up voluntarily without us imprisoning anyone.
Our present state of Prohibition fails on minimising harm in fact it positively increases harm by relinquishing the distribution and control of drugs to violnet gangsters.Predatory dealers target our kids. Ask any teenage child which he finds easier to get hold of cannabis or alcohol and he would say the former.
We will never have a drug free society our civilisation is steeped in drug use, that cup of coffee to get you going in the morning that glass of wine at the end of the day many of us use drugs responsibly and sensibly thats what we need to encourage.
Our current hypocrisy around drugs devalues us and makes us look stupid in the eyes of those we want to inform. Our children are not daft they know cannabis is less harrmful than alcohol or tobacco they don't like being lied to. THis is dangerous because when we actually tell them the truth about the dangers of drugs they are less likley to believe us.

Will S

Hhm, well I am ready to be persuaded and I was very much interested in the conversation on this topic that you had with the big beasts you summoned to your select committee a while back on the subject of conformity on drugs policy. However have other potential effects and other underlying causes been explored which might explain the decrease in drug consumption in Portugal after decriminalisation? After all, the profitability of selling drugs might explain the supply situation, but it does not explain the increased demand in this country.

Do you have any views on why there should be a greater consumption of drugs here than Portugal? Did the use of other drugs such as tobacco or alcohol decrease at the same time as the use of previously illicit drugs? And how does Portugal compare to Britain in the use of tobacco and alcohol? For it should be considered that there is considerable use of legal drugs in this country as well. Furthermore I would be interested in whether and to what extent the use of legal drugs has increased since 1971, which is vital if the link between the use of and the illicitness of a drug.

I am sure that you have considered all of these and if there's anywhere you could direct me for the figures or even give me your own ones I'd be interested.

Paul Flynn

No Will S. I do not want to see increased use of any recreational drugs - that includes alcohol and tobacco. Before Britain introduced the harshest drugs law in Europe in 1971, drugs use was so low that there were fewer than a 1,000 addicts. Now there are 280,000.

The great myth is that banning drugs reduces their use. It usually does not. It increasing the profits of dealers and their incentive to sell more. Those dealers in the UK are in the criminal world. In Holland they can be legal entrepreneurs paying tax. Either way the stuff is used by millions here. Fewer there.

No drug is 'safe'. But cannabis is low on the list of toxicity and addictivity - even lower when ingested by any way other than smoking.

I have just returned from a two day meeting of Europe's top anti-drugs group. Cannabis was discussed. The alleged link between cannabis and mental is very weak, if it exists at all. It's another 'reefer madness' story.

Will S

Sorry, but I'm confused.

At first I assumed that your reasoning for the legalisation of cannabis was that it would reduce its use. However you now seem to be favouring a market-based supply/demand approach to the problem which would appear to increase the supply of the drug. Do you believe that cannabis is a 'safe' drug and that its supply should be supported by the government?

And how does deregulation fit in with your socialist credentials?

I'm not trying to undermine or criticise you, but rather am trying to understand your reasoning. If you could clarify your points that would be most informative.

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