The War on Drugs is Unwinnable

Cocaine grows wild in South America, and has been cultivated for the stimulating properties of its (highly nutritious, by leaf standards) leaves for centuries.

A comparison of coca with other major food sources has shown that it is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, C and E, and in particular of mineral elements such as calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

It’s also excellent for warding off altitude sickness, and so coca cultivation is allowed in Bolivia, where Yields of 1.3-5 tonnes of Sun-dried leaves per hectare are common and prices on the illicit market (Peru, 2003) are around $2.50 per kg.

So, coca can be bought for a few dollars a bushel, and one kilo of sun-dried leaf yields between 2.5g and 4.5g of pure cocaine hydrochloride. The costs of the sodium carbonate (or cement powder) sulphuric acid, petrol and caustic soda used in the production process are negligible amounting to a few dollars. It is unlikely to be $200 to buy and process 50kg of leaves, if you’re doing it in bulk.

50kg of coca leaf will yield 125g of pure cocaine hydrochloride. On the street in Europe, where street purity would be around 10-30% (assuming 25% to keep the maths simple) and the drug retails for £40-50 (assume $72) a gram, your 50kg of leaf and chemicals bought for $200 generating $36,000 (£22,500) of retail sales. The input costs are negligible, and the difference is profit shared entirely by an illegal supply-chain. Narco-lords, mules, warehousers and distributors and street dealers. The majority of the risk is run by the street dealers, mules (or more accurately, those who direct and orgainse them) and narco-lords so this is where I expect the majority of profits to flow.

With such an economic pull, is it any wonder people do things like this?

Spanish authorities have arrested a Panamanian woman who arrived at Barcelona airport with 1.38kg of cocaine concealed in her breast implants.  

That’s 1,380g of cocaine worth (on the calculations above) nearly $100,000. Even if the mule captures just 20% of this, and this is probably an underestimate: getting the drug from Bolivia to a European city is the difficult bit; it is simply impossible to prevent a resource from rolling down so steep an economic slope.

The only sane response: just legalise it, and take that mark-up as better wages for Andean farmers and generate a lot of tax. More money for Government coffers, while generating many fewer bodies as it would be companies competing over taxable profits, not criminal gangs fighting for untaxed ones. Finally Governments such as the US would not need to spend the $7bn on fighting the drug war. To put this in perspective, the US spends just the gross profits from 2,800 hectares of Coca, or about 10% of the Bolivian crop alone.

We cannot stop the flow of cocaine from South America any more than Canute could order the tide to retreat. The laws of economics are stronger than the UN Convention on the illegal trade in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, 1988.

Libertarianism, Mexxy, Miaow Miaow & The Drug War.

So ketamine alternative, Mexxy is to be banned (No, I’d not heard of it either…) because it might have killed a couple of chaps from Melton Mobray. Just as Cocaine substitute, Miaow Miaow was banned for much the same reason. Of course no-one has proved that Mexxy or Miaow Miaow are responsible for those deaths, how prevalent the usage is, or indeed what the risks are. They are “associated with” deaths. Just as hospital admissions by people who have been drinking, but for whom drink is not the cause of the admission are still recorded as “alcohol-related” to please purse-lipped puritans who want to prove that our recreational self-medication is harmful, whatever the real evidence might be.

No doubt, pharmacology graduates working right now in laboratories in the Netherlands are testing new and exciting compounds to get people high, which may or may not kill their users. They then enjoy a few months or years profits until someone in a shirt, who thinks Cocaine is dangerous, cottons on that people are enjoying a mind-altering substance, and suggests to a Politician, who is voted for by Daily Mail readers, that it should be banned.

Crime Prevention Minister Lord Henley said: “Making this drug illegal sends a clear message to users and those making and supplying it that we are stepping up our fight against substances which are dangerous and ruin the lives of victims and their families.”

“A clear message”? When Cocaine is more available (if you know whom to ask) at 11:01 on a Wednesday night than alcohol? Of course, we don’t know the toxicity of Mexxy, because it hasn’t been rigorously tested. We do know the Toxicity of Cocaine, Amphetamines, Ecstasy or THC. They’re all considerably lower than that of Alcohol. Lord Henley again:

It is important for users of these harmful substances to understand that just because they are described as legal highs, it does not mean they are safe or should be seen as a ‘safer’ alternative to illegal substances.”

Quite. We just don’t know the safety of “legal highs” because it is assumed by law-makers that getting high is bad, a priori, and a “legal high” is therefore by definition always operating in a legal grey area. Of course Cocaine IS dangerous but only under long-term, habitual use. Just like booze. But Coca, the leaves chewed for millennia by Inca to ward off fatigue and altitude sickness, are not dangerous. Indeed the medicinal properties are well known. The reason no-one takes Coca in the west is that the leaves are too hard to transport and would command a fraction of the price of Cocaine Hydrochloride. I reckon a fair chunk of the coke used in the west is by people who’d rather drink coca tea and enjoy a stimulating effect similar to that available at Starbucks, without the heatburn and need to remember whether ‘Vente’ means ‘Medium’ or ‘Large’.

Qat, which has an effect very similar to Coca, but hails from the Arabian peninsula and Horn of Africa, is currently legal (go somewhere there are lots of Somalis and WASH THE LEAVES before you chew) but may be banned. To what end. To what end were “magic mushrooms” banned?

The insanity of our Drug laws is that people are denied demonstrably safe products, like clean cocaine, Coca and Cannabis. Means by which the already safe Cocaine, or Cannabis could be made even less harmful are prevented by their illegality. Legal products like Qat are denied the sophisticated treatment of a western supply-chain and are not as safe as they could be. Heroin users in particular are gambling with a respiratory depressant of long known effects, but are forced to experiment with a product of unknown strength, as a direct result of the drugs’ illegality. Most Overdose deaths occur when an abnormally strong batch hits the streets. People either take the risk of the illegal supply-chain with poor quality control, or take the risk with untested substances which may be more harmful than the natural product which is only unavailable because of a stupid law.

Now you could argue, as most drug warriors do, that the users don’t have to take drugs and so are to blame. And that is of course true. But other people rarely operate as one wants. Some people like booze, others weed. Some work hard, others do the bare minimum. Would the world really be better if we all ate our greens and worked hard, drinking only our (entirely unsuported by evidence) recommended 21 units a week?

The answer is, of course, no. Without booze & drugs, we’d have no Rock ‘n Roll to pick a trivial example. People take mind-altering substances, including booze, because they derive “utility” from doing so. What, apart from unthinking habit, is the reason for allowing people to drink a substance which is extremely toxic, emetic in lower doses, is perceived to be a dis-inhibitor, which means it is cited as a reason for most Friday night violence; while denying them a substance of lower psychoactivity, which causes few social problems? I am of course talking about Booze and Weed. Why is one allowed and the other not?

The answer is power and politics. People with power disapprove of people getting high in a way of which they disapprove. A couple of pints and a Chilean merlot with your steak – fine. Pass a spliff round afterwards, not fine. A circular argument has been created: Drugs are illegal, so users of drugs risk having their lives ruined by draconian law-enforcement, so “Drugs ruin lives”. QED. Now so much has been invested by the powerful in the policy of prohibition up to and including international treaties, that it is an extremely long process for the powerful to admit their policy is wrong. The war on Drugs is simply an unthinking habit of the political/law enforcement/medical complex, all of which has a vested interest in continued prohibition. All “expert” opinion is drawn from this. Organised crime has been gifted the most profitable business in history. The Mafia’s not complaining. The stoner, psychonaut, raver, partier simply don’t exist in the drug literature. No-one is asking users (as opposed to addicts).

This is like judging a magnum of Chateau mouton Rothschild ’54 with a hand painted lable by Salvador Dali by its effect on a smack-addled self-arguer in your local underpass.

In the mean-time, because a few substances do fun (and not particularly healthy) things to one’s brain & body, there will be a demand for them, but they will be banned with the full might of the law. And the law of supply and demand, added to the contrary nature of people when told to not do something naughty, creates a mighty demand slope where Cocaine hydrochloride can be produced in the Andean Jungle for pennies and sold in New York for Thousands. And like Canute standing before the tide, they fail to stop the supply, but kill tens of thousands and lay waste continents in their attempt to stop brute economics.

Politics simply cannot defy economics and make water flow uphill. The “war on drugs” is exactly like the 20th century left’s attempts to defy the economic law of supply and demand. The result – a huge pile of corpses – is exactly the same. Libertarianism: Applying the right’s economic logic to the social sphere. Individual freedom both economic and social is always right, even if you dissaprove of what they do with it.

Conversations on Drugs with a Politician.

I had a conversation recently on Twitter with a Councillor from Ipswich about drugs. This is one of the two subjects about which I’m like a dog with a bone (the other is cycling). I cannot think of a more expensive, destructive, counterproductive and stupid policy than the “war on drugs”. And like cycling, the dam is breaking, but it’s important to keep educating, because prohibition’s supporters are many and ill informed, however well supported they are by bad science and “studies” to support their case. She wrote a blog post to introduce her views, so I thought I would respond in kind, answering her points, in detail, one at a time.

I suspect we would ALL like to see killer drugs eradicated (apart from the dealers) so it will just be a question of how we can achieve that.

Let’s start with two fallacies in almost the first sentence. Killer drugs? Pot, almost as widespread as alcohol kills almost no-one. And before you say “Don’t be silly, she’s talking about horse, not weed”, she is talking about pot too. Prohibition benefits dealers. It’s a cash business, with social hours requiring little in the way of start-up capital, with better prospects than McDonald’s. It’s un-taxed, not subject to quality controls and with no statutory rights (other than caveat emptor) for customers. Drugs don’t kill, or at least they would kill much less if a PhD chemist working for GlaxoSmithKline was making them, rather than a dutch stoner in a backstreet lab. The fact is millions of people take “killer” drugs like Exctacy or cocaine every weekend with few ill effects. A dealer who gets known for a bad batch will quickly lose business.

When the hue and cry is over, most drug deaths, such as Rachel Whitear who’s blood heroin turned out to be below the lethal dose; or Leah Betts, who succumbed because she drank 7 litres of water, turn out to be something else. With heroin particularly, Drug deaths often occur from respitratory failure because a batch of purer than normal heroin hits the streets, resulting in a wave of overdoses. This would be avoided in a legal supply chain, because users would know in advance the strenght of the drug they were taking.

It’s therefore reasonable to argue that drugs are killers because they are illegal, not illegal because they’re killers.

I came into politics because of my concern over increasing drug use and therefore I’m not writing this on a position of proving I am right about anything I have already written. If the research and ensuing policy proved me wrong, I would be just as delighted. All I want is for us to at least be winning the war on drugs, whatever that takes.

Economists call this “selection bias”. People who go into politics because of a concern about increasing drug use are talking about a small, but visible band of Crack, Heroin and Alcohol abusers. This population increased coincided with “care in the community” a massive downsizing of the Army in “options for change” and the breakdown of traditional working class communities in the 80’s, and of social norms surrounding illegitimacy in the ’60s. Basically there were more ill-educated bastards, and people with mental health problems, and fewer places to hide ’em away or employ them. It’s easy to blame “DRUGS!” for wider social problems. The same moral Panic, over the same people, doing much the same, but with Gin can be seen at the Tate’s recent exhibition of Hogarth’s work.

I remember vividly the horror of the Ipswich street worker murders and the fact that we were told it was impossible to get prostitution off our streets. Well we proved them wrong with our 5 year strategy and although this long established industry has obviously not gone away, we have at least helped many girls get their life back and helped the residents of London road to have their roads free of street workers and pimps.This was done using partnership working to help them abstain from drugs, get away from the men who were pressurising them and find suitable alternative environments in which to start a new life.

Prostitution is very similar to Drugs. Tolerate the trade (which is not in itself illegal) and keep it where it doesn’t upset good, honest Tory mothers like our good councillor. A delivery business, on the Internet, and in “massage parlours”. The street whores are often the ones with chaotic lifestyles with a relationship to the drug trade. The problem is that a really heavy drug habit is expensive to fund. Drugs that could be provided for pennies by the medical supply chain cost hundreds of pounds. Most of this profit goes to the illegal supply chain. There are two ways to fund a habit. If you’re a woman of little education, and few skills, become a prostitute. If you’re a man in control of your faculties, become a dealer. Recruit vulnerable women, and become their pimp/dealer using the supply of Heroin to control them. Also recruit sub-dealers (who are probably also users) to bulk-up your income. Take your own heroin at source. It’s the illegality of drugs creating this highly effective pyramid marketing scheme, with its attendant cycle of abuse, not the drug itself.

Is there evidence that it’s the illegality of heroin prescription which causes the effects? Why yes there is. Opiates were widely abused from the 1800’s onwards. Laudanum, Opium, Morphine (addiction to which was known as “the soldiers’ disease, because it was often a habit acquired in field hospitals) were widely available. There was little moral panic, because most of the focus at the time was on the demon drink. Opium was seen as a vice of the moneyed classes.

The misuse of Drugs act 1971 changed all that. And when was there a heroin epidemic? That’s right, the late 70’s and early 80’s. It’s not compelling evidence, post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that, but it certainly supports the view that opiate abuse only became a moral panic when the working class started doing it, instead of well-tailored rakes.

And so the negative statement ‘we will never get rid of drugs’ just doesn’t wash with me. Yes we can win the battles, but it will be a slow, arduous multi-faceted, multi-partnered approach and lessons must be learnt and adopted from best practice around the world.

People like to get high, pissed, stoned or stimulated. Get over it. Illegal drugs is the most profitable business known to man, one the United Kingdom went to war over. The battle over its profits has destabilised South America and Central Asia for decades. So no, Councillor. We will never get rid of drugs, not without measures which would be frankly intolerable in anything like a free society. “Best practice”? Well Mao’s threat to shoot heroin users worked. But if that’s all you’re selling, I ain’t buying.

I intend to be open, honest and look for evidence that does not support my approach as well as those that do so that I give a balanced view. I invite comments from professionals in the know and people that have lived with a drug problem.

The people whose opinions our good councillor are NOT canvassing are the Hundreds of thousands of people who take party drugs occasionally. I know these people, I’m a stockbroker, for Christ’s sake, but who knuckle down with the week. Because their drug of choice is illegal, does that mean they have a “problem”? What about the enormous population, probably numbering in the millions who take Cannabis regularly without coming into contact with John Q Law. Do they have a problem. Because if they’re busted, you can bet it pays in terms of less gaol time if they say they do… I have a degree. I know these people, because I’ve been to university.

I have never taken illegal drugs but I know how hard it was to give up smoking a few years ago (apparently very comparable with heroin) so I do understand the torture involved in an addiction. I therefore come from the premise that help is needed as well as punishment for those who commit illegal acts.

It’s amazing how many people campaigning against drugs start their arguments “I have never taken illegal drugs”. To which I say “if you’ve a degree, you must have been a remarkably po-faced and boring individual at University”. You know that argument was once deployed against homosexuality. Or Heretics in Spain. Condemning something BECAUSE IT’S ILLEGAL, when people think it shouldn’t be (like sodomy or judaizing) is a silly position.

I will start with a statistic that was confirmed to me at our working group meeting this week. That children whose parents take drugs are 8 times more likely to embark on this journey themselves. This alone suggests that we owe it to them to try and work on abstinence of drugs (not merely harm reduction, which was the strategy under Labour). Many of the last govts policies were based on the premise that ‘oh well, we’ll never stop it so let’s just educate them and tell them about the harm in the hope that we can reduce it, while they do it’.

The observation that people become like their parents is hardly shattering. I know people who’ve smoked pot with their parents. Sorry “started down the road to becoming a street prostitute” by seeing their parents take “illegal drugs”.

This is clearly wrong because at best, it sends out mixed messages and, at worst, appears to condone it.

Just as with alcohol, the continental approach – learn to respect dangerous drugs, like alcohol at an early age leads to mature attitudes. The approach of “yes there’s a time for experimenting with drugs, and that’s university” works with drugs.

Yes, we should educate but our policies must now be with abstinence in mind or the next generation will bring us even more victims, addicts, destroyed families and huge costs.

I simply disagree. The addicts, many of them are a product of a pyramid-selling supply chain, not the inherent evil of the drugs themselves.

All those that now find it so difficult to get off the nastier drugs must surely wish they never started…

… and wouldn’t have in the majority of cases, were they not illegal..

it so lets make sure that going forward this regret is not felt by even more of our young people.

by legalising, regulating and controlling a trade in substances that 50 years of “war” by the most powerful nations the world has ever seen, which costs the US alone the same as the entire UK defense budget, has absolutely failed to stop.

Would I have started smoking had I been told the dangers way back in the 70’s? Of course not.

Absolute twaddle! Everyone knew it was bad for you back then. My Grandparents called cigarettes “coffin nails”!

So my first point is We must stop sending out messages that taking drugs is acceptable. Some are comparing taking drugs, like cannabis, with drinking. I am not accepting this argument here for various reasons;
a) 2 wrongs don’t make a right

Find me the victim when someone grows pot and sells it to someone. WHY is the state stopping mutual, un-coerced trade in something that kills fewer people than “accidents involving trousers”?

b) Alcohol is legal and making it illegal will never happen.

No. We’ve tried that, and the result is chaos and carnage. The result of drug prohibition is … um… chaos and carnage, on two continents. Your prescription: More of the same?

c) Wine is a natural substance that is good for you in small measures. One spliff is not good for you, even if you believe it’s not bad for you (to be debated later date)

Cannabis is a naturally occurring herb across most of the old world. It appears to have a great many medicinal, pain-relief, and appetite enhancing effects which would benefit from being researched. No-one is arguing smoking a spliff is good for you, but eating a “space-cake” may not be bad for you, and for many, may be medicinal.

d) Alcohol dependency is an illness but other than making drinking illegal also, it has no relevance to the war on drugs which is a stand alone issue and requires a different strategy.

That’s simply an assertion, supplied without logical argument and frankly idiotic.

The conclusion in ‘The Phoney War On Drugs by Kathy Gyngell, an author and researcher suggests that we must;

Reduce the supply of Drugs

Tried. Failed. It’s simply impossible to interdict supply in any meaningful way in a free society.

Reduce recruitment to drug abuse

I agree, but this is best approached in a legal, regulated supply, without a criminal supply chain which creates a highly effective pyramid marketing scheme, which is without compunction marketing to children.

Encourage people with drug abuse to give it up

Which appears to work with smoking…

The Netherlands and Sweden have both adopted the approach of enforcement of their drug laws, prevention of illicit drugs and provision of addiction care with successful results. Interestingly it is the UK that has gone into the realms of normalising drug use, not the Netherlands, according to research, and I think that would surprise many.

Ultimately the problem, even liberal regimes like the Netherlands have is that the supply chain is in criminal hands. Decriminalisation and toleration is hypocritical. What we need is legalisation. Much is made by the Drug warriors about the Netherland’s apparent volte-face. There’s more to it than “it failed”. “It” didn’t.

So I will firstly use some of the information contained within her research and book before moving onto those from the side of ‘legalising drugs’, something I am deeply opposed to but will nevertheless give opportunity to it’s believers here.

Imagine a legal, regulated supply chain. Addicts getting medical grade diamorphine, which has few of the health destroying effects of street heroin, which are supplied along with help and clean needles. Recreational drugs supplied at medical grade, with users able to be confident they’re taking something of known strength uncut with something nasty. Ecstasy deaths are caused by poor quality backstreet lab, not a drug which given the millions who took it in the 90s, seems far, far safer than alcohol. Cannabis users don’t punch each other in the face in the taxi-rank on a Friday night. Why the hell are we making illegal a simple plant? Coca has been used without harm by the Inca for millenia. British people use cocaine because it’s easier to transport than leaves!

The war on drugs has been an expensive disaster for everyone involved. The UK spends around £3bn on it every year. We could stop spending that, and instead tax the trade heavily. Everyone would be better off.

There are simply no arguments in favour of the continued “war on drugs”. It’s lost. “More of the same” is simply not going to work. Not now, not ever, except by destroying the Freedoms that make us happy and prosperous. Some people react to freedom in a way you don’t like. Get over it.

The ‘War on Drugs’ is a complete failure.

Many of the people who support the continued waging of the ‘War on Drugs’ cite the social breakdown caused by drugs, so it’s perhaps worth reading this post by Jim Brown, a probation officer, who sees first hand the problems caused by drug use, so he’s bound to support the mass criminalisation of poor drug users, right?

Virtually no aspect of the current regime works, in fact much of it compounds the problem and is hugely expensive along the way.

But some drugs are so dangerous that they cannot be tolerated, right?

We’ve all known for years that the middle-classes can manage to keep a good job and hide their drug use because they have the means to fund the habit without recourse to acquisitive crime. In the absence of a chaotic lifestyle and criminal activity, there’s also evidence to support the thesis that many can maintain a recreational level of consumption, similar to that of responsible alcohol users

So he’s in favour of legalisation? Well not quite.

just to be clear, certainly in relation to heroin and similar substances, I’m not advocating decriminalisation, but rather a return to the situation pre Misuse of Drugs Act when heroin could be prescribed and hence controlled by the medical profession

But his views on addiction do seem similar to those of the notorious right-winger, Theodore Darymple. That addiction is an excuse of those with chronically chaotic lifestyles to excuse self-destructive behaviour. People blame the drug, not their own folly for the state they find themselves in. This is easier on the Ego than the reality that some people just can’t cope.Darymple, writing in 2006…

Addicts want to place the responsibility for their plight elsewhere, and the orthodox view is the very raison d’être of the therapists. Finally, as a society, we are always on the lookout for a category of victims upon whom to expend our virtuous, which is to say conspicuous, compassion.

The answer, in whatever way it’s done is to punish acquisitive crime, with drug habits being neither mitigating nor aggravating circumstances, and leave those who just enjoy a different drug to that decided is acceptable to “society” to their habit. Any problems from over-use of drugs should dealt with by the medical, rather than the legal and law-enforcement professions. More and more law-enforcement professionals, Doctors and people with the ability to find their arse with both hands and a map are starting to put their heads above the parapet by saying mass criminalisation has failed. Let’s try something else. Sooner or later sociologists and politicians will join the reality-based community.

People like to get high, stoned, pissed or otherwise anaesthetised or stimulated. Leave ’em alone until they nick someone else’s stuff, or punch another in the face, then punish them for that. People, not the consciousness-altering substances they may consume have agency.

More on the Legalisation of Narcotics

Thanks to ‘Stranger Here Myself’ who left a comment on my recent post, in which he asks some intelligent questions.

1. What do you envisage being the legal minimum age for the purchase and use of narcotics? Will it be a single minimum age for all narcotics (including heroin) or do you intend imposing different minimum ages for different drugs (i.e. one minimum age for marijuana and a different one for crack)?

In general, people use the word “narcotic” to mean any psychoactive substance taken recreationally which is currently illegal. Pot and Crack have nothing in common, except their legal status. In general, though the age of majority, 18 makes sense. Clearly some narcotics do more harm than others, but as I approach this from a libertarian viewpoint, there comes a point where society considers everyone an adult. It would be difficult to restrict legal products to anyone older. Clearly the legalisation of Heroin, which causes major social and personal problems is going to be politically harder than Marijuana, and may be available through the health care system to addicts rather than as a recreational product. This would be vastly preferable to a criminal supply chain.

2. What enforcement mechanisms do you intend to ensure your laws regarding minimum age are adhered to? What penalties do you anticipate being levelled at those violating your laws?

Similar to those covering alcohol and tobacco for narcotics. Supply to minors would be an offense, but, again, as a libertarian, I’d tend to allow supervised use in the home, like the law surrounding alcohol. Clearly with Heroin administered through the health care system would be subject to a different regime. Are you really, honestly fussed if someone smokes a spliff with their 16 year old child?

3. What do you believe the minimum levels of narcotic presence should be for driving under the influence? Currently police can test drivers for alcohol use with minimal inconvenience but the basic test for ‘drug driving’ is crude physical co-ordination tests. Are you comfortable with police conducting random tests as they currently do for alcohol–cars lined up as drivers wait their turn to walk up and down lines, stand on one leg, etc.? Drivers required to provide urine samples because a police officer spots a pack of ’20 Hash’ on the dashboard?

The only coherent argument against legalisation is one which almost never gets an airing. There is no effective roadside test for ‘drug driving’. The development of one is probably necessary to allow legalisation. Work would need to be done on the level of impairment. It’s unlikely that small levels of cocaine are more dangerous than fatigue, for example to a driver. Pot does impair reactions, but also tends to make people drive slower. Legalisation would encourage research into narcotic’s effects with a view to safe use, rather than brute detection. How long before you’re unimpared after smoking pot. Difficult to know. It would be easier were such things legal.
This is certainly a problem for proponents of legalisation, but I doubt it is beyond the wit of humankind to come up with a solution.

4. What about exporting narcotics? Are you going to prohibit that? If not, how do you think the rest of the world–Europe, the U.S., etc.–will react to your country cultivating and manufacturing narcotics and supplying it to their countries’ criminals? Would you risk your libertarian utopia being deemed a pariah ‘narco-state’ by the international community and subject to sanctions? Your libertarian government being terminated by American, French, Russian and/or Chinese special forces to the relief of the remainder of the civilised world?

The UN convention on narcotics is probably the biggest over-reaction in history. More energy has been put into stopping people getting high than was put into ending the slave-trade or child prostitution. I suspect were a major trading nation, and member of the Security Council, Britain for example, were we to unilaterally legalise drugs, an awful lot of other countries would breath a sigh of relief and follow suit. Who really gives a shit what a totalitarian regime like China’s thinks?

5. If you are going to prohibit the export of narcotics, how will you enforce that prohibition? Are you satisfied that the present effort at (unsuccessfully) stopping the import of drugs would have to remain in place–prosecuted with greater vigour, even–but now aimed at stopping the export? What penalties would you deem sufficient to deter and punish those exporting a substance that is otherwise legal to purchase, sell, cultivate and manufacture?

I would like to see a regulated trade. Like that in Alcohol.

6. Are you not perturbed at the idea of narcotics–from marijuana to heroin–being advertised in a manner similar to alcohol? That similar adverts–many amusing and clever–could be aimed at promoting the sale and use of narcotics? (‘Time for a sharp exit–time for a cool, sharp crack’; ‘I bet he smokes skunk’, etc.) Just as one now has ‘3-for-2’ and ‘buy A and get B free’ deals, are you okay with sellers endeavouring to expand their market? That we might see signs in shops offering to the effect of ‘Buy one sachet of heroin and get a rock of crack cocaine absolutely free’?

Tobacco advertising is banned. Alcohol advertising is strictly regulated. Legal recreational drugs including cocaine or Marijuana need not be any different.

7. Are you content with manufacturers, just as they now expend effort to retain and expand their current markets by producing ever-better computer games, MP3-players, etc. with which people enjoy themselves, applying the same effort to create ever-better varieties of recreational pharmaceuticals?

One of the principal benefits of legalisation would be a supply chain where quality, particularly of Cocaine or MDMA, would be up to pharmaceutical standards. Mixers would be biochemically inert. Brands would be known and trusted for safety. Diageo, for example does not kill people with wood alcohol. Bootleggers during the prohibition era were not so fastidious.

8. Finally: assuming that you are serious about ‘libertarianism’ and would like to spread the philosophy outside of bourgeois liberal circles, do you really believe that drug-legalisation is the platform on which to do so? Do you really think those making up the majority in this country–the cleaners, bus drivers, plumbers, infantry soldiers, etc. (the ones with real jobs)–give a flying damn about legalising drugs? When they look around for someone with answers–to the daily crime, to why their country has turned its back on them–and they see you lined up next to the criminal-friendly Guardianista brigade–will they flock to your side?

I am serious about libertarianism. But I accept that it is a marginal political view point. The Guardianistas are every bit as authoritarian as their Daily Mail reading Nemesis. The legalisation of pot in particular seems to be strongest supported in Conservative circles: It’s been the Daily Telegraph, Spectator and Economist view for a long time. This is a question for a politician, which I am not.

All I am doing is looking at the ‘War on Drugs’ and seeing the horror, murder, death, crime and ruined lives it has caused out of all proportion to the harm (which I am not denying, by the way) of widespread drug use, and saying “there must be a better way”. A third of Americans in Gaol are there for crimes which ONLY involve drugs – no violence, theft or even victims, just supply or possession. Is that really the best use of scarce law-enforcement resources?

People like to get high, drunk, stoned, or otherwise alter their mental state. In final analysis, there have been 40 years of the “war on Drugs” at the end of which drugs, Pot, Cocaine and MDMA from different sources are available freely to whoever wants them. Shortages – it’s apparently nigh on impossible to get LSD these days – are due to changing fashions, not success in policing. Problems caused by “drugs” are difficult to tease apart from the problems caused by ever more draconian law enforcement. Locking a person up for posession or small-time supply effectivly ends that person’s life on the right side of the law. It’s time to admit that Drug supply cannot, in a free society, be interdicted. So stop trying and find another, less painful way to mitigate harms, and take the most profitable business the world has ever devised out of the hands of criminals.

I hope this answers your questions.

The War on Drugs: The Dam is Breaking.

So, following the rare outbreak of sanity earlier this year from our very own Bob Ainsworth, a few more serious people have put their heads above the parapet and called for an end to the War on Drugs. This time the signatories include the former President of Columbia, who you’d think knew a thing or two about the subject, George Shultz, Javier Solana and Kofi Annan. This adds to the declaration by Juan Manuel Santos, the current Columbian president that he would “not be against decriminalisation”. It’s not just international NGO grandees and superannuated politicians either. Law Enforcement against Prohibition now boasts thousands of members. Several unserious people added their voice too. A few Countries around the world are decriminalising drugs, and not seeing their societies collapse into anarchy, though the US ensures that outright legalisation is off the table for the time being, and the White House described the report as “misguided” it is clear the it is standing Canute*-like against a rising tide.

Whatever Gil Kerlikowske thinks, the dam is cracking in the global establishment position that drugs eradication by interdiction of supply is the best means to mitigate the harms of illegal drugs. The evidence is mounting that supply cannot be interdicted in any meaningful way, and that most users do not cause problems.

There are still pillars of resistance which will remain standing long after the cracks become a flood. The law-enforcement community has invested huge sums in prohibition, and vast bureaucracies, some with global reach like the DEA which have huge lobbying power, will resist decriminalisation, which amounts to a declaration that 40 years of effort and sacrifice from their officers has been a failure at best, and probably massively counter-productive.

Our own dear Inspector Gadget condemns the “well heeled” who call for the legalisation of drugs, arguing that “the reality” of drug use amongst the criminal underclass is different. Of course, if poor people admit to drug use, they get locked up. Unlike Dame Judi Dench or Sting.

“At least when it’s illegal we can do something about it, unlike the widespread alcohol abuse which causes so much damage to society.”

He says. Of course, it may not be the Police’s role to “do something” about drugs and alcohol apart from locking up problem users who nick things or beat each other up. Just because something is bad, or harmful, it doesn’t follow that it should be illegal. Much of the crime associated with drugs is either 1) acquisitive crime to fund a habit. or 2) violent crime as dealers defend their patch.

The law enforcement communtiy is not known for radical thinking, and has a lot of political capital tied up in prohibition, not to mention jobs and funding. Their knee-jerk response to any call for decriminalisation is to condemn it as “misguided” or “dangerous” and to dismiss the person making the call as a (probably drug-addled) crank. Such reports as today make this approach more difficult, and the truth is coming out: Legalised drugs would reduce the cost, reducing the level of acquisitive crime needed to fund habits. It would eventually eliminate drug related violent crime as dealers would be undercut by the local legal supplier. Booze may cause fights, but it’s not the publican beating up the manager of the local branch of Sainsbury’s.

But wouldn’t legal drugs be more available? No. Drugs are easier to get hold of (especially after hours) than Alcohol in most urban areas. In terms of oblivion per buck, Heroin’s cheaper than booze. If anything a legal supply chain would REDUCE availability to problem users.

But drugs are Harmful, wouldn’t legalising them mean more use, more addicts and be detrimental to society? That’s not the evidence of Portugal’s or any other decriminalisation experiment (the supply chain is still in criminal hands). In addition to the crime reduction, by imposing pharmaceutical standards on drugs, many of the medical problems associated with use will be reduced even more by legalisation and regulation as opposed to mere decriminalisation.

The fact supporters of continued prohibition must contend with, is, after 40 years of the ‘war on Drugs’ has failed. Coke, weed, heroin are more plentiful and cheaper than they have ever been. Whatever the answer to the “drug problem” more of the same ain’t it.

*Yes, I know Canute was making a point to his courtiers.

The Opponets of Legalisation SpEAk their BrAnEs

Heffer, this morning.

That alone illustrates the moral failure of our drugs policy, and perhaps helps one understand why the Ainsworths of this world feel that we might as well give up and legalise these killer substances. Theirs is a counsel of despair, however. The liberal society has failed. If we want to deal seriously with the drugs menace, we must start by admitting that, and reversing its odious doctrines.

Anyone whose argument concludes that “the liberal society has failed” has defeated his own argument, because the liberal society has created more happiness than any of the brutalised and repressed societies which preceded it. It may not be perfect, but more repression, locking more people up because they don’t behave as Simon Heffer thinks they ought, is not the answer. Who are we helping by such a policy? He trots out the same, tired, lazy arguments, which at the risk of boring my colleague Travelgall (who basically thinks the public’s view issue will NEVER change – itself a council of despair) I shall deal with the Heffer’s “arguments” in order. None are convincing.

…if you seek to undermine what Mr Ainsworth correctly calls the “gangsters” by reducing their ability to make money from drugs, they will simply find another commodity to exploit

There has never been a business as profitable as illegal drugs. Whatever dealers do instead will be less profitable, harder and therefore less attractive. Some will “go straight”. To say in one breath “drugs are an evil scourge on society” and in the next suggesting that whatever dealers will do instead would be worse is solipsistic.It pretends labour cannot be re-deployed (I was unaware that Mr Heffer took his Labour market economics from the Socialist Worker). In any case the argument amounts to “we can’t legalise drugs, because drug-dealers would lose their jobs”. I am sure this is not what Heffer had in mind.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and criminals used to idling for a living on a huge income are not suddenly going to get jobs stacking shelves in Tesco.

Most drug dealers are on, in effect, the minimum wage. True, there’s a chance of success by climbing the value-chain to the top, but the economics of Drugs are not easy riches. This shows how much research Heffer has done for this opinion piece. He then goes on to say that the taxes levied would be so high that the illegal traffickers would simply undercut the legal supply, and that

Given the damage done by drugs in terms of health and consequent criminality – such as addicts mugging and burgling to afford their fix, which would not change.

He offers no evidence to back this up. Some, perhaps most of the serious health problems of drug use are caused by illegality. No-one is going to pretend that pot is good for you, but there are regular users who remain productive members of society. Cocaine use is widespread in the professions. Many people remain occasional users. Heroin users, if they use clean needles and have a supply of quality drugs can remain productive members of society. They tend to remain less visible than the smack whores who remain the public image of heroin use, but I know of at least a couple of people who maintained a recreational Heroin habit for years without becoming smack-addled derelicts, including one who was a semi-pro rugby player. The point is that it is mucky, adulterated smack is the cause of much ill health, a situation that would be amenable to legalisation. Nothing I can see suggests that illegal drugs, especially Cannabis and Cocaine are far removed from the harm potential of Alcohol. Either ban Alcohol (what’s that, you say it’s been tried?), or legalise drugs.

Next he trots out the tired old “slippery slope argument.

… the other effects of legalisation would be to encourage people who don’t use drugs to have a dabble; and to encourage those who use so-called “soft” drugs (though the psychotic effects of cannabis seem to me to render it anything but “soft”) to try something a bit more serious.

“Seem to me”, well, he’s obviously done his research. That’s me convinced! The psychotic effects of Cannabis are not proven, and seem to be at most increasing the likelihood of schizophrenia in very heavy users who may have been already prone to the condition. Again no-one would say any drug is good for you, but compare the psycotic effect of alcohol: how many pot-fuelled fights are there in the UK every Friday night? How many booze-addled tramps are ruined by Booze? Pot is not good for you, but it isn’t worse than Alcohol. And who’s to say dabbling with drugs is entirely bad? Find me a graduate who hasn’t tried a spliff? Although some of those undergraduate pot-smokers become Journalists, most make something worthwhile of their lives.

Never in all the years I’ve been writing on this issue has anyone addressed the fact that there are FAR more problem drug users than when the substances were legal, available over the counter at your local chemist. Supporters of continued prohibition must ask themselves why. An illegal drug habit is expensive and the easiest way to maintain it is by dealing yourself. This encourages users to recruit other users in a highly effective pyramid marketing scheme. Whilst it is true that in the short term, there will be a great many people who will be tempted by a line of Coke or a Spliff, I suspect that anyone who would be tempted to mainline heroin is already doing so. A young impressionable pot or Ecstasy user is less likely, were they legal, to be exposed to a dealer whose supply of Green or pills had gone a bit dry, suggesting that he try some brown instead. Legal drugs would come with health warnings, and education material sponsored by nannying Government departments, rather than tips on how to get high from an experienced user. The slippery slope argument is as much an argument against prohibition as it is against legalisation.

The most widespread drug, Alcohol is at least as harmful as most illegal drugs. It is certainly responsible for the majority of the visible drug failures: the derelicts littering park benches and shop doorways. If we tolerate a drug with this potential for harm, it makes no sense to make illegal and spend billions interdicting supply, and criminalising users of drugs like pot which are FAR less harmful than booze.

Opponents of legalisation have to address the question of the availability of drugs. With all the money spent on preventing it getting to the UK, a crop which requires chemical processing and is grown on the mountains of South America, despite the USA spending 10 Billion a year on crop-sprayers and troops, despite all the sniffer dogs at airports, despite draconian punishment for traffickers, Cocaine can be had for £30-£40 a gram in every town from Inverness to Penzance. Cannabis can be had for £15 for an eighth (why cocaine is metric, and pot is imperial is an issue which has long vexed me). How could legalisation possibly make such drugs more available? They’re available everywhere, now! Anyone who is minded to try anything can already do so, after hours and to the underage, illegal drugs are easier to get than booze.

To suggest that the answer is savage repression against something that millions, yes millions of people do every weekend in the UK, and to even think this policy would make for a happy country, is absurd. Legal drugs would be cleaner, cheaper and there would be less stigma attached. Friends and family would be able to monitor people’s drug use as they already do with alcohol, as such use would be less hidden. Problem users may be tempted to seek help earlier than at present. It would remove a vast source of profit from organised crime, and put a stop to the recruitment of users by low-level dealers seeking to fund their own habit.

Nowhere, in all the world’s decriminalisation experiments has the supply chain been removed from criminal hands, yet not one has seen a significant increase in harm (use is different from harm). Reports of more widespread use may just be lower stigma increasing reporting of use. So decriminalisation hasn’t led to social unrest in Portugal. Pot is effectively legal in Spain, Holland and Germany without the reefer madness promised by the prohibitionists. I cannot see how removing the Gangster’s profits and redeploying the resources on actual crimes which hurt people can be anything other than a cheap win. Bleating about “families destroyed by drugs” seems to forget that these families are destroyed when drugs are already illegal. Perhaps they would not be so destroyed under a more humane system?

“Because they are illegal” is not an answer to “why are drugs bad?” The trade exists and cannot be controlled or prevented in a free society. Nowhere has succeeded in suppressing the trade, no matter how draconian a the country gets. A law which millions disobey every weekend brings the law into disrepute, and gifts millions to criminals who fight over the profits. Every drug death is an indictment of the current system and policy. “More of the same” is not, and cannot be an answer.

Heffer with his tired, ignorant, knee-jerk moralising has ignored every argument, and simply asserted what he believes to be true without deigning to do any research, or even thought. Remind me again, why does anyone pay any attention to journalists? How is repeating your readers prejudices for pay any more “moral” than selling them a relatively harmless herb to help them relax?

Why couldn’t Bob Ainsworth have stuck his head above the Parapet Two Years Ago?

Bob Ainsworth(less), a minister of spectacular uselessness even by New Labour standards has come out and said it. The war on drugs is a counter-productive, expensive, damaging failure.

Why the hell did he not do anything about these views when he was in Government? Of course the rhetorical question can be answered: Because of grotesque producer capture by law-enforcement and media; political inertia and cowardice on all sides of the house. Suggest such a “crazy” thing and you will get comments like “I have seen what drugs do to communities…” without considering the counter argument of legalization, regulation and some control would do much more to help the addict, at much less harm to the non-problem user and cost to the tax-payer than the enormously expensive and totally futile attempts to limit supply.

The fact is slowly, one by one politicians are realising that a cheap win is to decriminalise drugs and medicalize addiction, whilst leaving the non-problem user alone. This removes a cause of enormous harm to populations, especially in Britain, poor and ethnic minority populations who don’t use particularly more than their white compatriots but are FAR more likely to have their doors kicked in and their collars felt by plod. The tide is turning. Pot was nearly legalised in California. There are experiments in Holland, Portugal, Spain and others, which have not led to the collapse of society. Nor have they even led to increases in drug use. The fact is the failure of prohibition is so complete that illegal drugs are more available and cheaper than they’ve ever been. Because of the hysteria about booze, in many cases they’re easier to get hold of for a teenager than alcohol. Cocaine, once the preserve of rock-stars and the rich is now available for £30 a gram. It’s cheaper and easier to get high than it is to get drunk, especially after pub closing hours.

The Zero-Tolerance approach could only work when you had worldwide acceptance of that policy. That has broken, and steadily the failed dogma of prohibition will be rolled back. Even in the USA. Once it is seen that legalised pot hasn’t caused a major social problem as promised in “reefer madness“.

The current coalition are, or were, sympathetic to legalisation, and I have spoken to senior people in Law enforcement, politics who will, in private say that the war on Drugs is lost, is unwinnable and it is the war on drugs, rather than the drugs themselves which destroy communities. The only people who say otherwise are the kind of people in the military and police who proudly say “Having never taken drugs, I can say they have nothing to offer”. People who think through the issue, beyond the dogmatic line can see that decriminalization or legalisation would significantly reduce harm, in many cases without increasing use. It remains career-harming for a copper, especially in the lower ranks to say so publicly. Unfortunately, it is still electorally risky to say so publicly, and whilst significant numbers of Tories and Labour MPs are in favour of freedom on the issue in private, there is an authoritarian wing of both parties, which sees something of which it disapproves and thinks “Ban This” and it is this tendency which gets the popular press on their side, because they make a lot of money from pictures of Kate moss snorting a line.

However, David Nutt, for his faults is in favour of a more realistic line, as were the other scientists on the Advisory council on drugs. Law Enforcement against Prohibition are increasingly influential in the USA, and Chief constables, Lawyers and Civil Servants working in the Field in the UK have added their voices. Just about the only people who will consistently oppose legalisation who know the situation in any detail are drug dealers themselves – these guys have the most to lose. Sooner or later, drugs policy will come in from the cold, and the reality of what it is doing to countries like Mexico will mean that something will give. Already, the number of police, politicians and scientists who are prepared to put their heads above the parapet is increasing. Cracks are beginning to show in the dam holding reality back, and one of the good things about democracy is that it usually gets social questions right. Eventually.

At the moment, the prevalent view is that drugs are a moral issue – they represent weakness of character. This is the line deployed against masturbation, extra-marital sex and homosexuality by the authoritarians in the past. It was a fallacious argument then, it’s fallacious now. Moral has nothing to do with whether something should be illegal. The fact is that most of us have had a spliff – find me a graduate who hasn’t – and few of us go on to mainlining smack. Some stoner undergraduates have even gone onto serious careers in the police, the Military the professions. Some however become politicians. Drugs policy IS a moral issue. The current prohibition is grotesquely counterproductive, destructive of societies and communities and astonishingly illiberal. Anyone who supports it is either malign, ignorant, stupid or all three.

My guess is that the Daily Mail is wrong and we will be able to have a spliff after dinner fairly soon.

David Nutt solves the Alcohol problem.

Remember when Professor David Nutt stuck his head above the parapet and said that some drugs where safer than horseriding? Of course we all thought he meant that drugs should be decriminalised. What he, of course, meant was that horseriding should be banned. For our own good, of course.

It seems the good professor is quite the puritain when it comes to alcohol. So I take back the nice things I said about him. Here’s his 21 point action plan for the ancient problem of people getting drunk. There’s no link, because he won’t allow a link here in the comments. You’ll have to find his drivel yourself or if you can’t be bothered, I’ve cut and pasted his ‘ideas’ here.

1. Make alcohol a national health priority: current estimates are that the damage from alcohol costs the NHS the order of £20bn per year and the violence it induces cost £7billion in police time.

From whence these estimates? Anyone admitted to A&E with any alcohol in their blood, whether or not this had anything to do with their admission, just like Road Traffic stats?

2. Tax according to alcohol content since alcohol is the dangerous drug in drinks. Everyone accepts the rationality of this between alcohol classes – e.g. sherry is taxed more than beer and less than spirits, so there is a precedent that could easily be brought into action. A can of 8% lager should cost twice that of a 4% one and 4 times that of a 2% one. This was planned by the last Labour government and the coalition missed a real opportunity to make a statement about alcohol harms by not increasing the tax in this way despite their manifesto commitment.

Why should a 4% can of lager cost twice as much as a 2% can? I can see the logic of a progressive taxation, but this would make wine, that facet of the Mediterranean cafe culture we’re all supposed to emulate, prohibitively expensive. He’s not thought this through.

3. Increase alcohol tax to bring the cost of alcohol in real terms back to where it was in the 1950s before the progressive rise in consumption started, i.e. gradually, say over 5 years, triple the price. All available evidence shows that the price of alcohol determines use for almost everyone with the only possible exceptions being severely dependent drinkers. The increased health burden of alcohol is largely driven by non-dependent drinkers so would be significantly reduced by an increase in price. I have estimated that the average taxpayer would save the order of £2,000 per year by the reduced costs of alcohol-related harms if we increased the price as suggested. In the case of wine drinkers, only those consuming more than several hundred bottles a year would be worse off with this scheme, and they are drinking at a dangerous level anyway.

Everything except land, gold and whores are cheaper relative to incomes than they were in the ’50s. It’s called ‘getting richer’ and it’s a good thing, David. You stick to the psychopharmacology, and leave the Economics to people who understand it.

4. Stop selling strong alcohol in supermarkets; use the Swedish model where only alcoholic drinks of less than 3% can be sold outside licensed shops that have more limited opening times than supermarkets. Supermarket alcohol sales are not only destroying lives but also public houses and other alcohol outlets where drinking is conducted in a social manner and where intoxication can be monitored and young people can learn to drink socially and more sensibly.

Because problem drinking is UNHEARD OF in Scandinavia. Clearly we should emulate their drink policies.

5. Ban special discounting of alcohol in bars e.g. happy hours, all you can drink for £10 etc.

I’ve no problem with cracking down on establishments which cause a problem, and I’ve no doubt this correlates with happy hours, but it is unlikely that this correlation is perfect. Try enforcing existing laws before banning a perfectly reasonable marketing ploy by bar owners. How about enforcing the law about serving clearly intoxicated people? Wouldn’t that work…. Puritanism is the nagging fear that someone, somewhere is having fun. I think you just revealed that here, David.

6. Stop selling wine in larger 250 ml glasses that have crept up on use in recent years – we should go back to smaller glasses again. For a medium size female, 5 large glasses of wine in one hour will lead to a blood alcohol level of 300mg/% which is that needed to produce coma.

Oh for Pity’s sake. Where to start with this one. I’ve been to the pub with many, many ladies over the years, and I’ve often bought them large white wines in 250ml glasses. Not one, ever has ever slumped into an alcoholic coma. Perhaps you should stop adding the Rohypnol, or would that stop you ever getting laid?

7. Repeal the 24 hr licensing law so bars close at 11pm.

Fuck off, you miserable, bloodless Puritan wanker. I would quite like to be able to stay in my local, drinking a few pints with my buddies until midnight on Friday nights, if that’s OK with you?

8. Ban organisations such as Carnage UK that promote dangerous levels of drinking as entertainment

If they cause a problem, why not enforce existing laws first?

9. Make it a law that all alcohol outlets must sell non-alcoholic beers and lagers so that those who like the taste of ales can get it without the risk on intoxication. Make these drinks be sold at below the cost of equivalent alcohol-containing ones and make it obvious that they are available.

mmm. Alcohol free lager. Yes please! Not. Been tried. No-one likes it. Go away. This end up being a mandatory few bottles in the fridge, replaced only when they go out of date, and never, ever drunk by anyone. Just another silly, pointless law.

10. Enforce the law that makes serving drunk customers illegal in bars: have breathalysers in bars and clubs so that seemingly intoxicated people can be tested and denied more alcohol if they are above 150mg/%.

This would go a long way to limiting the harm of binge drinking. Why not try that at #1 before banning stuff for those of us who don’t cause problems?

11. Add warning notices to all drinks warning of the damage alcohol does, as with those on cigarette packets.

Oh ffs. Go Away. Leave us the fuck alone. Stop fucking nagging us. You cunt. We drink to excess because cunts like you piss us off. Capish?

12. Reduce the drink driving limit to 40mg/% to deter drink driving and hence reduce drinking. And if caught, get people properly assessed and repeal their licences if they flout DVLA guidance. Encourage the wider use of alcohol detectors in cars.

We’ve the safest roads in Europe, despite their being the most crowded. We’ve lower levels of drink driving despite drinking more than many others. Everyone should be copying us. Stupid idea.

13. Invigorate the treatment of alcohol dependence by making alcohol a priority for the national treatment agency; encourage the use of proven treatments that reduce drinking and stop relapse.

Get alchies to dry up and medicalise addiction. Sound point there, at #13.

14. Provide incentives to the pharmaceutical industry to develop new treatments for alcohol dependence and its consequences.

#14 can’t hurt either. What are the incentives: a tax break. Wouldn’t you see AIDs or Malaria as being more deserving though? Doesn’t this show warped priorities?

15. Encourage research into developing an alcohol alternative that is less dangerous, intoxicating and addictive than ethanol and for which an antidote or antagonist can be made available to prevent deaths in overdose.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d rather a line or two of coke than a pint of the Nutt’s gnat’s piss ‘ale’, but I suspect that’s not what you had in mind, is it David?

16. Educate from primary school age about the dangers of alcohol.

Make alcohol glamorous for kids. Good Idea. What could possibly go wrong?

17. Develop public campaigns to make alcohol unfashionable just as was done for tobacco.

None of the pretty girls I know smoke. Not one. NoSireee. Smoking isn’t fashionable. Not at all.

18. Ban all alcohol advertising as with tobacco.

Fine. Take money out of sport and new programming. All we’ll ever have on TV are American sitcoms. Good Idea.

19. Ban all government supported organisations e.g. universities from having subsidised bars. Ban drinking games and pub-crawls in public organisations such as university sports and social clubs; remove financial support from clubs that allow these.

I’ll tell you what: You try and stop Exeter Agrics 2nd XV going on their annual pub golf tournament. How, just how will this be enforced? Fuckwit.

20. Raise the drinking age to 21. When this was done in the USA in the 1990s it was estimated that over 170,00 lives were saved in road deaths.

1. I dispute the figures. 2. It’s catastrophically illiberal. You can send an 18 year old to face AK47s in Afghanistan, but not let him face B52s in Bar Khyber? Madness. It’s madness in the USA, and it will be worse here. Knob.

21. Finally, a measure that could be a powerful tool in the implementation of the above would be to reduce the use of alcohol by politicians as it could distort their objectivity in law-making in relation to the harms of alcohol. Get them to openly declare any association with the alcohol industry. The government’s wine cellar should be closed and the subsidy of alcohol in the Houses of Parliament stopped. Somehow though, it seems unlikely that MPs would call time on that particular perk…

I see what you did there, David. A knowing wink at the policy makers. I’ll tell you what. You’ve got 3 or maybe 4 out of 21. Fail. No wonder even the last government thought you were an idiot and fired your sorry arse.

Ban, Ban, Ban, interfere with the market, Ban, nanny, stop, plan.

Here’s my plan for you, David, and anyone else thinking of interfering with my free time. LEAVE. ME. ALONE.

Drug Decriminalisation, again.

Another day, another sensible person in the public eye bravely puts his head above the parapet and says “isn’t it time we decriminalised recreational drugs for personal use?” In this instance, it’s Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Green QC. I wonder if he’s to suffer the same fate as the unfortunate professor Nutt.

A growing body of comparative evidence suggests that decriminalising personal use can have positive consequences. “It can free up huge amounts of police resources, reduce crime and recidivism and improve public health. All this can be achieved without any overall increase in drug usage. If this is so, then it would be rational to follow suit.

In the Telegraph’s report, we get the same facile rent-a-quote arguments against this sensible proposal. First up is savagely illiberal Labour crypto-facist and serial Hypocrite, Keith ‘I cannot believe I’m still an MP after the shit I’ve pulled‘ Vaz, who offered the “message” argument:

I am shocked by the suggestion that drugs should be decriminalised for personal use. The legalisation of drugs would simply create the mistaken impression that these substances are not harmful, when in fact this is far from the truth

There’s a law against procuring malfeasance in a public office, Mr Vaz, you corrupt little maggot, and that didn’t prevent you accepting a peerage to vote in favour of locking your co-religionists up for 42 days at a time on a Governmental whim, did it? So you’re shocked that someone expresses an opinion, mr Vaz? I’m shocked you’re not in gaol, fuckwit.

OK, so I’m playing the man, not the ball there, but the law is about setting the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, and the savage penalties for drug use are out of all proportion to the harm they do, especially when compared to Alcohol. The law is not there for public health, and shouldn’t seek to protect people from themselves. It should certainly not be used to “send a message”, because the law is a powerful, but blunt tool that can bitterly oppress. The law creates victims if overused. It should not be used to express disapproval.

Next up we’ve got the “slippery-slope” argument from Tory MP James Clappison.

There seems to be a very strong link between recreational drug use, leading to drug addiction leading to crime fuelled by drug addiction. I would have thought the chairman of the Bar Council would have seen that for himself.

How many people have tried Canabis and never tried any other illegal drug? The answer to that question blows the slippery slope argument out of the water. Some 25% of young people enjoy a joint. Fewer than 10% report use of anything else, though the article linked seems to claim that this does show a slippery slope! If that won’t wash, try anecdotal evidence: How many people were enthusiastic tokers at University and then don’t touch anything else afterwards? The slippery slope argument is facile.

Next up, we’ve ex-Asda checkout boy and wet-back Tory MP Phillip Davies who offers the “well why don’t we legalise crime argument”:

It is a ludicrous argument to say let’s legalise drugs to take pressure off the police and the courts. That is an argument to legalise everything.

No it isn’t because one chap selling another chap something he wants does not create a victim. Why are we policing something that thousands of people take regularly the vast majority of whom do not cause problems? Why are we prosecuting people for possession of small amounts for personal use, when moderate canabis, extasy or cocaine use causes less problems than Alcohol, which leads to blood and vomit on every high street in Britain every friday night?

MPs shouldn’t ask “why should we legalise”? they should ask “why are we banning when we allow people to get pissed”. An absurd percentage of the court’s time is taken up with “drug-related” offences. Legalising the trade would remove a hugely profitable industry from organised crime, remove profits which are fought over by rival gangs, remove the introduction to criminals by otherwise law-abiding users and allow users to be confident in what they are taking. Legaised drugs would be safer, less harmful, create less crime AND help the exchequer. The Governmnet would have lower enforcement costs (by some billions a year) AND have a revenue stream they could tax.

Inevitably when this subject is covered in the papers we get some Mother who’s son (usually it’s ‘died’, but in this case it’s merely) developed “severe personality changes” when he started smoking canabis at 14. First, is there any evidence that Canabis causes mental health problems. Yes, but it’s not certain that Canabis is worse than Alcohol in this regard. But Post hoc Ergo Propter Hoc – find me a teenager who doesn’t develop “severe personality changes”! Of course no-one’s going to pretend recreational drugs are good for you. But it is a personal choice. And in this instance, a developing brain is more likely to be kept from dope, were it legal and the trade regulated. This is NOT an argument against decriminalisation, but an appeal to the emotion of the reader.

Every argument against decriminalisation falls down because the assumption is that banning has any effect at all on supply, and a negative effect on demand. It doesn’t. If you’re in a town in the small hours, illegal drugs are easier to come by than legal alcohol. If you’re 14, illegal drugs may be easier to get than booze. There are many pieces of evidence that if you want to reduce USE, especially amonst the young, then legalisation or decriminalisation are the way to go. I’ve dealt with this in more detail here, but principally it boils down to the fact that the easiest way to sustain a habit is to become a dealer. This leads to a highly efficient pyramid marketing and distribution scheme.

If you want to reduce harm, then safe, legal and regulated drugs are the way to go. If you want to reduce crime, then remove the profits from THE MOST PROFITABLE TRADE THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN from organised crime and give it to businesses which pay tax and produce safe, reliable products. As well as improving the health of the users, This will reduce enforcement costs, which can be redeployed elsewhere, and the create revenue. Much drug related crime is fighting over the profits. Remove the profits, remove the crime.

Anyone who cannot see this is an idiot. Anyone who thinks there’s a moral issue here about what should be allowed in the face of these utilitarian arguments is a cunt. It really is that simple.