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December 07, 2010

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DG

Sorry Huw, I obviously don't have your foresight and experience in these matters. Can you tell me with a little more detail what you can see the problems would be? I can only envision problems that would be best be described as a pain in the backside.

HuwOS

"Maybe in time the scheme could be extended to alcohol too"

Just start with it being alcohol DG, then follow through what would actually happen, and you will see just how bad an idea it is.
That was the idea I played with and no matter how I looked at it, it not only wouldn't work, it couldn't and trying to make it work would be horrendous, it's a complete non starter.

Kay Tie

"thinking about the social consequences of addiction."

Well there are social consequences to addiction to X-Factor, football, computer games, gambling and any number of other things. I think that's where government should step away from this and let people sort their own lives out.

It might seem attractive for the state to "help" with things like gambling addiction, but I am pretty sure that the perverse incentives that this "help" comes with have a very large probability of making it worse (just look at how social workers are behaving over forced adoptions because of the perverse incentives they have).

DG

Take your point on the medical harm; I was using a more informal definition, thinking about the social consequences of addiction.

Kay Tie

"The same kind of harm that alcohol abuse can do"

Most drugs don't come even close to the harm alcohol does. Most drugs don't make people dangerously violent, most don't have the long-term medical side-effects on a par with alcohol.

Have a look in a medical encyclopaedia for your definition of "harm", not a government leaflet. For example, the only long-term detrimental effect of heroin is chronic constipation (and possibly an elevated risk of bronchial infections due to the suppression of the cough reflex).

DG

"What harm precisely?"

The same kind of harm that alcohol abuse can do

"seems like a good idea until you think about it in a little more detail then realise it is unenforceable, unworkable and that it would only truly effect those it isn't aimed at while being incredibly authoritarian and irksome to all."

Agreed it's not a perfect system, and bureaucracy is never welcome; but currently people have to break the law and go underground in order to get their poison of choice (unless it's cigarettes or alcohol) and give their money to potentially very unpleasant people. Wouldn't the inconvienience of being licenced be mitigated by the convenience of being able to legally purchase quality-controlled (maybe even Fair Trade) substances from your local corner shop?

HuwOS

The judiciary or medical profession would be able to revoke a person's licence for personal consumption if they deemed it necessary, in the same way that you can lose your driving licence today.

It's one of those thoughts everyone has from time to time, seems like a good idea until you think about it in a little more detail then realise it is unenforceable, unworkable and that it would only truly effect those it isn't aimed at while being incredibly authoritarian and irksome to all.


Kay Tie

"I understand people's concerns about the harm drugs can do"

What harm precisely?

(Bear in mind that any harm caused by prohibition itself is "harm prohibition can do" not "harm drugs can do")

DG

I understand people's concerns about the harm drugs can do, so maybe a licencing system would be the way to go.

I envision a three tier system, with licences for import, retail and personal consumption. The judiciary or medical profession would be able to revoke a person's licence for personal consumption if they deemed it necessary, in the same way that you can lose your driving licence today. We would still have a problem with unlicenced people getting hold of drugs through "friends" or unscrupulous traders, but at least we'd avoid criminalising people who aren't causing any harm to themselves or society. And the tax revenues could be channelled towards treatment for problem addicts.

Maybe in time the scheme could be extended to alcohol too, thus helping identify problem addicts with a different drug of choice.

Back of an envelope stuff, I know, but I'd welcome any construtive feedback on it.

Ad

'The Portugal experience suggests that decriminalisation is exactly the right approach for their stated priorities of reducing drug use and reducing crime. If an approach has been shown, several times, to achieve the opposite of what you intend, it may be time to change that approach.'

I agree. The Home Office says its priorities are 'to reduce drug use' and 'help addicts come off drugs'. Worthy aims. It also says they want to 'crack down on drug related crime'. This is misguided.

Firstly, 'drug related crime' includes people caught in possession of drugs for their own usage. It is wrong to pursue an addict as a criminal.

Secondly, if you want to 'reduce drugs use' and 'help addicts', it is not a helpful or necessary component to 'crack down' on users and addicts.

So the problem is this mentality of 'cracking down'. Portugal has removed this weak link from drugs policy and proved the results.

Instead of being hard upon people the Home Office must consider what needs to be done at this present time and listen to advice. It must reverse unnecessary and unhelpful policies and commit instead to helping people. The Home Office says they want to do this. Study how to oblige people instead of making them outcasts.

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