The War on Drugs kills another seven Britons. How many more must die for a bankrupt idea?

12 July 2013

Another summer, another reminder of the consequences of our drug laws:

A man has been arrested in connection with the death of an 18-year-old who had taken fake ecstasy tablets.

The woman died in Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire, on Tuesday. She and three friends had taken green tablets with a Rolex Crown logo on them.

Similar tablets have been linked to the deaths of six other people in the west of Scotland in the past two months.

Of course, no-one needs to purchase ecstasy and primary responsibility for these horrid deaths lies with the people who manufactured these pills.

Nevertheless, unscrupulous (and stupid) suppliers are not the only culpable actors in this sorry tragedy. Parliamentarians share some blame too. They may only be secondarily responsible but they cannot wish their responsibility away. Because these deaths, horrid as they are, must be the obvious, oft-noted, consequence of prohibition.

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Once upon a time David Cameron recognised this. Before he became leader of the Conservative party he was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee and, way back then, declared himself open to “alternative ways – including the possibility of legalisation and regulation – to tackle the global drugs dilemma.”

None of the facts have changed since then but Mr Cameron appears to have changed his mind regardless. There are perfectly acceptable moral reasons for drug-taking but even politicians unpersuaded by such concerns might accept that prohibition must make drug use much more dangerous than it need be.  If they were really interested in public health – as opposed to, say, scolding Britain’s young people – they might accept that prohibition inevitably leads to needless deaths.

Not that this will impress inveterate Drug War Warriors. For them these grim deaths are – objectively speaking – useful data points demonstrating the evils of any drug use.

Some of us, however, prefer to think that these are entirely preventable, deaths that are the inevitable consequence of political choices made in London. Our parliamentarians share some responsibility for these deaths. How many of them have the courage to admit as much and how many are prepared to do something about it? The War on Drugs is often just as dangerous – and sometimes more dangerous – than the enemy it purports to fight.

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  • malcolmkyle

    An appeal to all Prohibitionists:

    Most of us know that individuals who use illegal drugs are going to get high—no matter what, so why do you not prefer they acquire them in stores that check IDs and pay taxes? Gifting the market in narcotics to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists, and corrupt law enforcement officials is seriously compromising our future.

  • piggly wiggly

    Why do respectable people advocate the taking of mind-altering, and usually anti-social, anti-self drugs (they take control of your self away from you)? Why do respectable people want to live next to such people that don’t want self-control? These are the real questions in the drug debate. Massie weakly ignores them, as most drug-advocates do.

  • Piggly Wiggly

    Hallucinogenic drugs can give rise to antisocial and even deadly behaviour, to say nothing of the possibility of social unrest. No one should have carte blanche to take them. In this case, Parliament is right.

  • harpat

    If a person knows drugs are dangerous and illegal, take them and kill himself, it should be considered good riddance. Drug use will come down once the addicts and non addicts realize the death danger. Legalizing drugs will cause widespread use by peer pressure and in the long run will cause many more deaths. You have to weigh today’s results against that.

    • malcolmkyle

      “Evidence provides no indication that decriminalization leads to a measurable increase in marijuana use.”

      — Boston University Department of Economics

      “There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use.”

      — National Academy of Sciences

      “The preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”

      — The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research

      “The Dutch experience, together with those of a few other countries with more modest policy changes, provides a moderately good empirical case that removal of criminal prohibitions on cannabis possession (decriminalization) will not increase the prevalence of marijuana or any other illicit drug; the argument for decriminalization is thus strong.”

      — British Journal of Psychiatry

      • harpat

        Let us not replace common sense with faith in bogus studies and reports. There are way too many phony experts and studies that have caused too many problems already.

  • Kim Bean

    What was in the pills that caused death at such a low dose?

  • Cathleen Mccarthy-taylor

    “Of course, no-one needs to purchase ecstasy and primary responsibility for these horrid deaths lies with the people who manufactured these pills.”

    and richard branson is responsible for the death of anyone who throws themself under a virgin train
    fosters/stella /carlsberg etc are responsible for alcohol related deaths
    rope manufacturers are responsible for the deaths of anyone who hangs themself
    razor blade/knife manufacturers are responsible for suicide deaths by slitting wrists
    tobacco companies are responsible for all smoking related deaths
    motor companies are responsible for all traffic fatalities

  • Ben Kelly

    One funny thing I still don’t get is how angry weed smokers get at its current legal status. Seriously its just that they waste so much breath and energy harping on about their imaginary persecution when in reality they should be happy as Larry! Weed is sold all over the place, the last Weed dealer I spoke to told me of another ten dealers in his immediate vicinity, most people don’t live that far away from one. You can smoke in the street, in the park, at festivals, at home, at your mate’s house, whatever, you never get bothered. I smell it all the time on busy high streets, outside pubs, smell it being smoked in people’s gardens etc. If you get caught with it the police aren’t really bothered but they don’t make any effort to bother weed smokers anyway. Just saying, if you’re a weed smoker you’ve never had it so good! Stop getting so angry and just light up, no one cares!

    • malcolmkyle

      Prohibition effects all of us. It has diverted police resources away from other law enforcement activities with the result that violent crimes, and crimes against property, have been far higher than they would otherwise have been. To the extent that communities divert law enforcement resources from violent crimes to illegal drug offenses, the risk of punishment for engaging in violent crimes is reduced.

      Kindly follow the link to a scientific paper that determines empirically the homicide offense rate to changes in the percentage of arrests attributed to drug offenses. The empirical results obtained are consistent with a priori expectations that homicide offense rates are higher in communities that devote a greater percentage of their policing resources to the enforcement of drug laws.

      The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada recently reviewed 15 studies that evaluated the association between violence and drug law enforcement. “Our findings suggest that increasing drug law enforcement is unlikely to reduce drug market violence. Instead, the existing evidence base suggests that gun violence and high homicide rates may be an inevitable consequence of drug prohibition and that disrupting drug markets can paradoxically increase violence.”

      Here is Julien Codman’s testimony, who was a member of the Massachusetts bar, given before the Senate Hearings of 1926:.

      “we will produce additional evidence on this point, that it is not appropriate legislation to enforce the eighteenth amendment; that it has done incredible harm instead of good; that as a temperance measure it has been a pitiable failure; that it has failed to prevent drinking; that it has failed to decrease crime; that, as a matter of fact, it has increased both; that it has promoted bootlegging and smuggling to an extent never known before”

      “We believe that the time has come for definite action, but it is impossible to lay before Congress any one bill which, while clearly within the provisions of the Constitution, will be a panacea for the evils that the Volstead Act has caused. We must not be vain enough to believe, as the prohibitionists do, that the age-old question of the regulation of alcohol can be settled forever by the passage of a single law. With the experience of the Volstead law as a warning, it behooves us to proceed with caution, one step at a time, to climb out of the legislative well into which we have been pushed.”

      • Ben Kelly

        Quite a lot of time on your hands then? I was merely making a tongue in cheek comment about the total and utter easiness of buying weed in Britain without any real worry of being arrested let alone charged.

        I know soooo many weed smokers, I know sooo many dealers just in my vicinity, you can smoke it anywhere without any bother, no one give a monkeys any more, the enforcement of the law regarding marijuana has not been so soft in a century in this country. Yet so many weed smokers act like a persecuted minority. Yet still, on high streets, outside pubs, in parks, at festivals, in people’s gardens, I see and smell it being smoked. It is not a law enforced with any vigour, ludicrous to suggest it is. That was all I was saying, I actually think at this point, given that the law is not enforced anyway, they may as well legalise it. Go and indulge in this argument with somebody else.

  • ButcombeMan

    But Mr Massie you have fallen into the trap laid for you by the pro drug use lobby.

    “Prohibition” in relation to substances unfit for human consumption or only suitable for consumption under close medical supervision, (to deal with a medical condition and an awareness of the issues), is a planted meme to draw a superficial equivalence to the brief attempt at prohibition of alcohol in the US.

    Many of the so called “prohibited drugs are not in fact “prohibited” at all, they are “regulated” for use by clinicians. Still they get abused and abuse of and addiction to, other medically regulated substances is on the increase.

    Yes of course big business wants to legalise all drugs and make money out of addiction, just like big tobacco already does.

    Would that be better for society than containment on something like the current model? Do you want your tube driver on fentanyl or MDMA? Would society be better with more drugs normalised?

    You are wrong, primary responsibility for the deaths does not lie with the manufacturer, it lies with those who use drugs and with those, like you, who excuse drugs use and effectively argue FOR more of it.

    • malcolmkyle

      Prohibition has negatively impacted on the lives of all of us. It has stagnated the normal economy while allowing criminal enterprises to control an untaxed and thriving underground market that’s estimated to be worth (annually) well over three trillion dollars ( $300,000,000,000). By it’s emphasis on the eradication of marijuana we have also denied ourselves the miracle of hemp, which can offer us workable and logical solutions to a number of our society’s problems—be they medicinal, industrial or agricultural.

      According to the CATO Institute, ending prohibition would save an annual $41 billion of expenditure in the United States while generating an estimated $46 billion in tax revenues.

      During alcohol prohibition (1919-1933), all profits went to enrich street-punks, organized-criminals, and corrupt-politicians. Young men, while battling over turf, died every day on inner-city streets. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have been far more wisely spent. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally, the economy collapsed. Does that sound familiar?

      To support prohibition is such a strange mind-set. In fact, It’s outrageous insanity. Literally not one prohibitionist argument survives scrutiny—not a single one!

      • ButcombeMan

        The Cato Institute does what it does -surely because of the funding line from Soros?
        You, like so many total legalisation lobyists use the word “prohibition” carelessly. You did not evn read my expanation above. Many “prohibited” drugs are not in fact prohibited at all , they are regulated for medical use.

  • Robin Smethurst

    You cannot win a war on an abstract; drugs, terror, poverty etc…who do you bomb? Who do you slaughter into submission? It’s just a ridiculous and meaningless catch-phrase dreamt up to fool the dumbed-down masses that the gov. actually gives a shyte. They don’t. If they cared about the ”damage” done, they’d outlaw alcohol tomorrow. What repression of drug users is about is giving the government another excuse to kick your door in at three o’clock in the morning and brand you as a criminal for life. To keep you in fear; so long as you take the governments’ own life destroying drug i.e. alcohol, you’re free to get as shitfaced as you like. This is why you find the overstretched police ”too busy” to send officers to serious crimes, at least in my locale – they’re ”too busy” of a weekend picking pissartists up out of the gutter in the city centre.

  • Terence Hale

    The War on Drugs kills another seven Britons. How many more
    must die for a bankrupt idea? This is a tough problem. In “Modern Times” as Mr.
    Chaplin put it the use of drugs is to enhance yourself, to con people that you
    are not you. The spiral kills. Modern chemistry allows anybody to make such
    drugs in the kitchen. What should we do? Let them do it, control, prevention, prohibitions.They all have not worked are only hope is education.

  • Ben Kelly

    We are losing the war on drugs.
    We are also losing the war on…
    Car theft
    Human trafficking
    Child abuse
    …. these crimes and so many others are still happening all the time all over the world! Legalise them, tax them and fill the exchequers coffers, in one fell swoop the world would be a better place.

    • nisakiman

      Car theft
      Human trafficking
      Child abuse

      These are all crimes against others, and as such should of course be prosecuted. There is no comparison with drug use, which of itself has little impact on society. The problem is the crimes that arise from drug use, and the vast majority of those crimes are driven by the prohibition of said drugs, not by the drugs themselves.

      You are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

      • Ben Kelly

        People steal in order to obtain the money to fund their habit. What exactly would change about that when they are legal? How is this not drug use in itself having little impact on society?

        Tomorrow morning I will meet with drugs addicts all morning and most of them are burglars, shop lifters, muggers etc. They do this because they have no job (because of their drug use), and they therefore steal to pay for their drugs. They continue in this cycle. How is this caused by the drugs they are taking being illegal? If they were legal they would suffer much the same problems. They would still be incapable of working, they would still commit crime, many of them would still lose theirs kids as a direct result of their heavy drug use, many of them would still end up dead or be forever lost. How would the legalisation of the drug change that and in what way do you think that would be good for society?

        In my voluntary work as a support worker I see exactly the social problems created by drug use, it of course has an impact on society, absurd to say otherwise. You are looking through a narrow telescope pal, don’t patronise me, especially if you’re going to speak in uninformed generalities, and over simplistic sweeping statements with little understanding of the complexity of the issue.

        My message was just a little mocking of the idea of the ‘war on drugs’ which is really not happening in the way people think of it. I don’t think the fact that lots of people break a particular law is in any way a sensible argument against the law. People caught in possession or under the influence of drugs are generally now cautioned and sent to a support worker, there is no mass imprisonment of drug addicts.

        The legalisation of drugs would in no way prevent or soothe the social problems that state sponsored charities, that are based all over the country, deal with on a daily basis. My experience has made me realise how difficult and complex this issue is, it made me realise that decriminalisation has already been rolled out to a great extent, it made me see up close the shocking issues that arise from the use of drugs that would not disappear if the drugs were legal. There is a huge underclass of serfs stuck in a cycle of drugs, welfare and crime that revolves entirely on their dependence on drugs. Drugs that would be readily available if you legalised them; further exacerbating their problems, not solving them in any way.

        Legalisation is just madness. You can have a reasonable discussion about decriminalisation, but legalisation is always based on the absurd proposition that all the problems, social issues and crime associated with drugs would just magically disapper after they are legalised. Because ‘drug taking harms no one but the user’, of course, although this is demonstably and self-evidently not true, I would be lying if my experience had made such a feeble idea as this seem anything but a lie, a complete non-starter.

        Full legalisation. Very often supported by people who are tainted by their need to justify their own actions. Always based on an oversimplification of this complex issue with no due consideration to the unintended consequences. Very often by people who have little experience of the social problems they say don’t exist. Idealism and utopianism at its very best, thinking in binaries as ever, always argued arrogantly by people who just KNOW they are right, no need to bother being sceptical or considering opposing views.

        • malcolmkyle

          Prohibition is an absolute scourge —The End! The use of drugs is NOT the real problem, the system that grants exclusive distribution rights to violent cartels and terrorists IS.

          If you support prohibition then you support bank-rolling criminals and terrorists. There’s simply no other logical way of looking at it.

          Everybody who supports prohibition needs to understand that there is a human cost associated with this dangerous and failed policy. – Every time you/they assert their support for it they are condemning thousands more to death.

          Every-time the ghastly violence of prohibition is falsely blamed on the users, it diminishes the culpability of those who are truly responsible for maintaining the status quo. Prohibition is an absolute scourge -the end! The use of drugs is NOT the real problem, the system that grants exclusive distribution rights to violent cartels and terrorists IS.

          When governments prohibit drugs they effectively and knowingly hand a monopoly on their sale to dangerous criminals and terrorists. Without a legal framework in which to operate, these black-market entities can always be expected to settle their disputes violently, while terrorizing many peaceful and innocent citizens in the process. Were the users of alcohol to blame for the St Valentines massacre in 1929? Of course not! It is just as naive to assume that one can compel all the users of Marijuana or Cocaine to simply quit, as it is to assume that all the users of Alcohol should have stopped drinking after the introduction of alcohol prohibition in 1919.

          Nobody can be expected to obey bad laws, like ones that infringe on logic as well as the fundamental right to decide on what medicine or poison an individual adult may, or may not, ingest. The violence and the deaths ultimately arising from such bad public policy should always rest squarely on the shoulders of those ignorant imbeciles who are responsible for implementing and supporting such foolishness.

          • Ben Kelly

            You make plenty of valid points. Nevertheless it is very odd to go from one extreme to the other. Legalisation does not suddenly make all the social problems created by drug use go away. What I do not understand is, how on Earth people think that there would be no negative consequences. People would still commit crime to fund their habit, that in itself does not make the argument for legalisation invalid, it does however make the idealistic idea that all crime related to drug use is because of ‘prohibition’ completely redundant, it simply is not true.
            If drugs were legal, I would still be going into work every week offering my support to violent criminals, burglars, car thieves, shoplifters etc. who live a life of crime to fund their drug habit and also because they are incapable/do not want to work a legal job. These issues would still exist and there is a possibility that they may proliferate.
            Now, one could say that one believes that legalisation is still the way to go, and we can deal with these social issues in the same way. Fine, but to think that these problems somehow disappear because of legalisation is ludicrous. The people I meet in my work are not committing crimes or losing their children or becoming estranged from their families or becoming depressed or suicidal because the drugs they take are illegal, these issues would still exist. It just isn’t an instant utopia as some people seem to think.

    • malcolmkyle

      It is extremely disingenuous to compare laws that are obviously there to protect us from each other, such as those pertaining to Pedophilia, Rape and Murder, with laws solely and foolishly designed to protect individuals from themselves, such as prohibition.

      While it is true that taking any drug (especially alcohol and tobacco) can sometimes indirectly affect others, this exact same argument was used to implement and painfully prolong alcohol prohibition in the US during the 1920s. Domestic violence, wife battering and child neglect were definitely not curtailed, or even slightly ameliorated during this earlier period of insanity.

      Not only did Prohibition increase usage but it also exacerbated all other related problems while bootleggers, just like many of our present day drug lords, became rich and powerful folk heroes as a result.

      Historically, the prohibition of any mind altering substance has never succeeded in providing what is needed – which is a safer environment for the users, the addicts, their families and society at large; Prohibition always spawns far worse conditions than those it’s supporters claim to be able to alleviate. So shouldn’t we all be aware by now of the difference between sensible public policies designed to protect us and those foolishly designed by despotic imbeciles to create as much mayhem as possible?

      • Ben Kelly

        I wasn’t really comparing them, it’s just that the silly tired old line of ‘we are losing the war on drugs so give up’ is not actually an argument in itself at all and should not be used as one.

  • Ben Kelly

    What is this ‘war on drugs’ Alex? How come in my experience every day in my work (I work in this place called the real world, in a little country called the real England, you should visit it some time you cosy liberal fop) I meet people who have been arrested on drug offences, cautioned or warned and sent to a drugs support worker where they are obliged to have at least one appointment during which we offer them support with drug use, housing issues, job issues, CVs, drugs information and ‘harm reduction’, and see if they have any other underlying issues that they may need help with or if they want support to come off drugs. Isn’t this exactly the level of decriminalisation you are arguing for? Why are you still arguing for it in such an intellectually bereft manner when it is so, is happening and you have already got what you want? I know this because I am experiencing this in my life. I also know full well that the police actually make relatively little effort to clamp down on drugs use and sales on a whole. You really need to open your mind Alex, there is no drugs war, your petty little arguments seem to me rather pathetic when faced with reality of the situation. Tomorrow morning I will meet several people who were arrested over the weekend for possession of drugs or being under the influence of drugs, and none of them will have been charged with that offence, they will be offered support by us, if they do not want it they will be sent on their way. I will also meet prolific criminals who have never received much in the way of punishment for their crimes because they are considered to have a serious illness i.e. drug addiction, so their long crime sheet of burglaries, muggings, shoplifting, has brought very little retribution because they are presumed to need support rather than incarceration.. Again, this is the reality, so what on Earth are you talking about Alex?

  • malcolmkyle

    Parasitic Prohibitionists dance hand in hand with every possible type of criminal one can imagine—an unholy alliance of ignorance, greed and hate which works to destroy all our hard fought freedoms, wealth, health and security.

    We will always have adults who are too immature to responsibly deal with tobacco alcohol, heroin amphetamines, cocaine, various prescription drugs and even food. Our answer to them should always be: “Get a Nanny, and stop turning the government into one for the rest of us!”

    The only people that believe prohibition is working are the ones making a living by enforcing laws in its name, and those amassing huge fortunes on the black market profits. This situation is wholly unsustainable, and as history has shown us, conditions will continue to deteriorate until we finally, just like our forefathers, see sense and revert back to tried and tested methods of regulation. None of these substances, legal or illegal, are ever going to go away but we can decide to implement policies that do far more good than harm.

    • Ben Kelly

      Please explain the current drugs policies and how they are implemented exactly and what harm you think they do. Thank you.

      • malcolmkyle

        Kindly do your own research and get back to us,

        • Ben Kelly

          I already know due to my job thank you, I just wondered if you were one of those who still believes that drug users are thrown in prison simply for using drugs because it is not the case, that is all, this does not contradict your opinions on the subject of drug laws, but the debate should be on honest grounds. Drug users are sent to social work charities to be paired up with support workers, which many people do not seem to realise.

  • NutmegJunkie

    No one has ever been able to tell me why we need to lock people up for having a drug preference that differs from the drug preference of the majority.

    The people advocating summary execution for using drugs are dangerous extremists. As time passes they will become increasingly regarded with the same well deserved contempt as the nasty S.O.B.’s who once murdered people for having different sexual preferences.

    • Ben Kelly

      Because not all of these substances are equivalent by any means, anyone who knows anything about drugs knows this or are being completely disingenuous. Summary execution is, of course, a ridiculous solution to this complex issue so I am not defending that. But you are being absurd, insulting and idiotic in suggesting being homosexual rather than heterosexual is equivalent to deciding to inject yourself with Heroin rather than having a cigarette or a beer.

      • malcolmkyle

        According to the Australian National Drug Research Institute (2003): “The research into the global burden of disease attributable to drugs found, that in 2000, tobacco use was responsible for 4.9 million deaths worldwide, equating to 71 percent of all drug-related deaths. Around 1.8 million deaths were attributable to the use of alcohol (26 percent of all drug-related deaths), and illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine and amphetamines) caused approximately 223,000 deaths (only 3 percent of all drug-related deaths).” Marijuana doesn’t get a mention.

        According to DrugRehabs.Org, national mortality figures for 2009 were: tobacco 435,000; poor diet and physical inactivity 365,000; alcohol 85,000; microbial agents 75,000; toxic agents 55,000; motor vehicle crashes 26,347; adverse reactions to prescription drugs 32,000; suicide 30,622; incidents involving firearms 29,000; homicide 20,308; sexual behaviors 20,000; all illicit drug use, direct and indirect 17,000; and marijuana 0.

        Researchers led by Professor David Nutt, a former chief drugs adviser to the British government, asked drug-harm experts to rank 20 drugs (legal and illegal) on 16 measures of harm to the user and to wider society, such as damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs and crime. Alcohol scored 72 out of a possible 100, far more damaging than heroin (55) or crack cocaine (54). It is the most harmful to others by a wide margin, and is ranked fourth behind heroin, crack, and methamphetamine (crystal meth) for harm to the individual.

        The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that in the U.S. alone, an estimated 79,000 lives are lost annually due to “excessive” drinking. The study estimates that the overall cost of excessive drinking by Americans is $223.5 billion each year.

        Health-related costs per user are eight times higher for those who drink alcohol when compared to those who use marijuana, and are more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers, according to a 2009 review published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal.

        It states, “In terms of [health-related] costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user.”

        Having three or more alcoholic drinks a day increases lung cancer risk by 30 percent.

        “Heavy drinking has multiple harmful effects, including cardiovascular complications and increased risk for lung cancer,”

        —lead researcher Stanton Siu, MD, of Kaiser Permanente

        Alcohol, when used alone, is “involved” in far more emergency department visits than every illegal drug combined. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control): “In the single year 2005, there were more than 1.6 million hospitalizations and more than 4 million emergency room visits for alcohol-related conditions.” A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in 2012 suggests that as many as 50 percent of emergency room visits could be alcohol-related. In New York City for instance, nearly 74,000 people visited hospitals in 2009 for alcohol-related reasons, compared with just 22,000 in 2003.

        • Ben Kelly

          Good God, please, get a life.These comments are ridiculous, as if I need a self indulgent comment this long to tell me alcohol and tobacco are extremely harmful. I really do not see how pointing that out is in itself an argument for legalising currently illegal hard drugs anyway. Making them even more widely available in stronger and purer form so that they are easy to obtain as cigarettes and alcohol is what you arguing for, one of the ways you argue for this is by pointing out how harmful and dangerous alcohol and tobacco are. Really is not one of your better arguments in this little online crusade of yours.
          Jolly nice stats and everything, but I know a lot of smokers of cigarettes, they generally lead better day to day lives than the Heroin, Crack and amphetamine addicts I work with. Oh, of course it will catch up with them, but it simply is not equivalent. Acute alcohol addiction can however turn a human being into just as much of a pitiful wreck as a Heroin addict though certainly. In any case, again, in itself, pointing our the dangers and ill affects of tobacco and alcohol doesn’t logically lead to a desire to legalise all the other drugs. Not your best point.

      • NutmegJunkie

        I’m not saying that being homosexual is that same being as using heroin you nitwit. I’m saying that punishing people for acting on their sexual preference is no different to punishing people for acting on their psychoactive plant preference or punishing people for worshipping a different God/s.

  • C. Gee

    Suicide is no longer a crime. The decision to buy oneself into recreational addiction, physical, mental atrophy and misery should be legal. Disability is a right. A really caring society would give heroin stamps with food stamps. (Of course, food stamps should not be exchangeable for fatty food or fizzy drinks.)

  • The_greyhound

    The price, rather, of the phoney war on drugs.

    Singapore deals very effectively with the problem. If the UK Government was prepared to take the sort of measures appropriate to the problem – for instance executing dealers, – then the matter can be speedily resolved.

    Half measures are seldom effective.

    • nisakiman

      So you think that fear of the ultimate sanction is the answer?

      How very enlightened.

      Perhaps we should apply the same rule to alcohol to stop the so-called ‘binge drinking’ of our youth. I’m sure that after we’d hung a couple of hundred of them from gibbets we could cut binge drinking down to controllable levels. No need for minimum pricing then, eh? Of course, it would somewhat curtail the pleasures of the Chardonnay swilling set, but then half-measures are seldom effective, are they?

      The mindset of the prohibitionist is so predictable. A mixture of ignorance, bigotry and ideological puritanism.

      What business is it of anybody else what I choose to ingest? If I wish to indulge in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, red wine, whisky, tobacco or anything else that may take my fancy, who are you to sit in moral judgement on me? Who or what gives you the right to impose your own personal morality on anyone else?

      Draconian legislation only serves to drive drug use further underground. Prohibition has never worked, and it never will work. All it has ever achieved is to create far more misery for far more people than if it had never been imposed. Politicians and legislators don’t seem to be able to learn the lessons of history; they seem determined to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, to the detriment of all.

    • malcolmkyle

      The Singapore CNB (Central Narcotic Bureau) announced in September 2011 that the the 5% drop per year, which they often proudly proclaimed as proof of the effectiveness of their tough drug stance, was totally inaccurate. Arrests it seems have actually increased since 2008 contradicting Singapore’s assertion that being tough on drugs (even with mandatory death sentences) has ever been effective.

      From January to June 2011 there was a 20% increase in arrests compared to the previous year. This not only indicates that drugs are entering Singapore but also that the amount of people in Singapore using drugs is steadily and surely increasing.

      This isn’t just a problem Singapore can claim is due to chronic drug users, as a large percentage of those being arrested are first-time users — 41% in 2008, 45% in 2009 and 46% in 2010. This clearly shows that threats of caning, harsh prison sentences and even death does nothing to deter either ‘chronic users’ or ‘first time users’.

      The government has promised to “look at the problem afresh and comprehensively”, but they’ve also pledged to maintain Singapore’s ‘zero-tolerance policy’. So no change there then, which is what we’ve come to expect from people who’s livelihood depends on an historically failed and dangerous policy.

      The Singapore government, and those who blindly support them, now have no proof whatsoever that their laws are curtailing drug smuggling or drug usage rates.

      • nisakiman

        “…which is what we’ve come to expect from people who’s livelihood depends on an historically failed and dangerous policy.”

        And there you hit the nail squarely on the head.

        The ‘war on drugs’ is in itself a multi-billion pound industry, not just in terms of the front-line enforcers (which would put many armies to shame) and legal machine, but also in the many branches of the support industries that supply them. Arms and ammunition; helicopters, planes, boats and road vehicles; specialist services like trained sniffer dogs; laboratories that analyse and verify suspect substances; the incarceration facilties for those arrested; the list goes on and on.

        And all those people have a vested interest in perpetuating the status quo. And the way they do that is by issuing press releases to the ever supine and compliant media, playing up all the dangers of drug use, but never mentioning the dire consequences engendered by their enthusiastic prosecution of the drugs laws. Much like the Tobacco Control Industry (for industry is what it is) which issues a steady flow of increasingly outlandish scare stories based on dodgy statistics and conjecture, invariably concluding with “more research is needed”, which of course means “give us more funding from the taxpayer’s pocket”.

        Drugs laws, anti-alcohol, anti-tobacco; if you want to know the whys and wherefores, just follow the money. There will always be some industry or other making a fat profit on the back of it.

      • Daniel Maris

        How does Singapore deal with the problem of new designer drugs? – presumably not illegal.

  • Rob Foster

    poverty is the main cause of crime. Not a drug if the drug was free or dirt cheap druggies wouldn’t have to seal to fund there habit. Create legislation where only charity companies can sell cannabis like California’s Harborside Health Center. Where profit goes into free health care. Similar charity’s could be set up to distribute other drugs ect.

    • Ben Kelly

      Drugs are very cheap actually, Heroin and Crack are really not all that expensive. Though my clients become more dependant and want to take them more often so eventually will commit crime to pay for them. The majority of them do not work because they are either incapable or no longer want to as a direct result of their drug use, legalisation does not solve that particular problem.

  • Dogsnob

    The problem we have is not that we have a war on drugs, but that we talk as if we have one.
    If we prosecuted this war effectively by means of swift court trials and firing squads, then we would really be fighting and winning.

    • malcolmkyle

      “The results of testing a number of hypotheses indicated that since the introduction of the death penalty for drug offences, the numbers of drug arrests and the incidence of violence related to drug offences have increased. In addition, the smuggling of drugs by sea has increased. Moreover, heroin trafficking has increased since the introduction of the death penalty.

      Finally, the findings of this study indicate that the introduction of the death penalty in Oman does not deter drug offenders from involvement in drug related offences in general and drug trafficking offences in particular.”

      Norris, Clive (Supervisor)
      February 2004
      Department of Comparative and Applied Social Sciences, The University of Hull
      Qualification level
      Doctoral PhD

      • Dogsnob

        If you believe this drivel, then you’re thick.

        • malcolmkyle

          Is that all you have, personal abuse?

          Prohibition is an awful flop,
          We like it.
          It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop,
          We like it.
          It’s filled our land with vice and crime,
          It’s left a trail of graft and slime,
          It don’t prohibit worth a dime,
          Nevertheless we’re for it.

          — that was Franklin P. Adams 1931 In reaction to recommendations of a panel of ‘experts’ concerning continued enforcement of the Volstead Act.

          The United States re-legalized certain drug use in 1933. The drug was alcohol. The 21st amendment re-legalized its production, distribution and sale. Alcohol consumption and violent crime dropped immediately as a result. And very soon after, the American economy climbed out of that same prohibition engendered abyss into which it had foolishly fallen.

          • Dogsnob

            Your argument fails when it seeks to equate alcohol with other drugs. The only people alcohol harms are those who abuse it through ridiculous excess. I can, as many people do, use alcohol moderately without long term harm. This is not the case for many other drugs, some of which can take a life with one small dose.

            Even moderate cannabis use is a long-term hazard. I know a small number of present and past cannabis moderate regulars, and even the ones who have given it up, are left with quite marked problems with their ability to deal with daily life.

            I’m afraid I have neither poetry nor doctoral theses to back any of this up. But I know a damaged mind when I see one and will not accept any of the pro-drug BS commonly peddled.

            • Forest Fan


              • Dogsnob

                Go for it fellah!

            • Daniel Maris

              Lots of young people die from one alcoholic session – they suffer alcoholic poisoning, they fall into a ditch in the middle of winter and die of exposure or they get onto a motorbike and ride into a wall.

              • Ben Kelly

                That’s very true, so lets legalise drugs so more people can drop dead legally. Yeah?

                • Daniel Maris

                  Your assumption is just that an assumption. We have effective decriminalisation for personal use now. I don’t see any reason that drugs use would grow if we combined this with a strong “anti” message which (paradoxically) we don’t have now.

                • Ben Kelly

                  Your assumption is also just that, an assumption. A differing opinion from mine that you have, in your undue arrogance, convinced yourself is a fact backed up with something. In fact it is an opinion, based on an assumption, with no evidence. Yes there is decriminalisation already, and now drugs are used openly, all over the place, sold everywhere, easily available and accessible and widely used. So of course there is something more to think about here, of course there is a strong possibility that full legalisation would lead to increased use. You deny this outright as if you know something I don’t. I have come to this opinion based on a lot of experience and witnessing first hand the world of drugs from many different perspectives and angles. You seem to have literally no respect for my opinion and consider your own to be gospel and have decided to defend it without scepticism.

                  Yes, we don’t have anywhere near strong enough anti-drugs message these days, I agree. It seems to have been lost to a popularisation and soft approach. Harm reduction advice that advises you how to take drugs ‘safely’ (impossible), good old Frank is so soft its almost pro drugs, plus the popular image of drugs in music, films etc. These things combined with decriminalisation has led to drugs beind widely available and widely used. The magic legalisation wand doesn’t make all of the problems and issues disappear as you so naively believe.

                  I simply want this discussion to be based on the truth and reality and not to be on false grounds. I think the complexity of this issue has to be respected and it is not, hence why people have such extreme and over simple solutions. From ‘lock em all up’ or ‘shoot them’ to ‘legalise it and all the problems go away’, neither of these approaches are advocated by people who deal with the world of drugs, and its many issues and social aspects, closely and have experience with it.

                • malcolmkyle

                  The assertion that drug legalization/regulation would bring higher usage rates ignores what has occurred since the early 1970s. The percentage of Americans who have used an illegal drug has gone from less than 5% to about 40%. The cost of one dose of street heroin has gone from $6 to 80 cents while average purity has also increased. The only drug that has decreased in use during this time is tobacco, which has plummeted from about 65% during World War II to about 20% today. Tobacco, one of the most addictive substances known to man, has never been illegal but many Americans have quit using it for personal reasons that clearly have not been influenced by it’s legal availability. They will decide whether or not to use other drugs for the same reasons.

                  Prohibition continues unabated for shameful political reasons. It cannot, and never will, reduce drug use or addiction.

                  Transform’s outstanding book titled, After the War on Drugs: Blueprints for Regulation, provides specific proposals for how drugs could be regulated in the real world. The book is available for free online. If you would like to read it then here it is:

                  And here’s some info on Swiss Heroin-assisted treatment (HAT).


                  At the end of 2009, 1356 patients were undergoing HAT at 21 outpatient centers and in 2 prisons.

                  HAT is now being carried out at centres in Basle, Bern, Biel, Brugg, Burgdorf, Chur, Geneva, Horgen, Lucerne, Olten, Reinach, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thun, Winterthur, Wetzikon, Zug, Zürich and in two prisons Oberschöngrün (canton Solthurn) and Realtà (canton Graubünden).


                  In many cases, patients’ physical and mental health has improved, their housing situation has become considerably more stable, and they have gradually managed to find employment. Numerous participants have managed to reduce their debts. In most cases, contacts with addicts and the drug scene have decreased. Consumption of non-prescribed substances declined significantly in the course of treatment.

                  Dramatic changes have been seen in the situation regarding crime. While the proportion of patients who obtained their income from illegal or borderline activities at the time of enrollment was 70%, the figure after 18 months of HAT was only 10%.

                  Each year, between 180 and 200 patients discontinue HAT. Of these patients, 35-45% are transferred to methadone maintenance, and 23-27% to abstinence-based treatment.

                  The average costs per patient-day at outpatient treatment centers in 1998 came to CHF 51. The overall economic benefit – based on savings in criminal investigations and prison terms and on improvements in health – was calculated to be CHF 96. After deduction of costs, the net benefit is CHF 45 per patient-day.

              • Dogsnob

                See above ‘ridiculous excess’

    • Remittance Man

      If that were the case we wouldn’t still occasionally hear about how the Chinese executing another bunch of drug dealers. And Singapore would have stopped hanging moronic European drug smugglers years ago. All harsh penalties do is push up the price of drugs and encourage the manufacture of dodgy and dangerous imitations.

      • Dogsnob

        So you think I expect to completely eradicate drugs and drug dealing? Don’t be silly, we can only hope to get it to a managable level.
        In a country like China, with a population of over a billion, in your words we ‘occasionally’ hear of the execution of drug dealers. If that’s what it takes, then fair play to them – they’re shooting people whose business is supplying people with ruin. When the British did it in China, they were rightly criticised. Did the Chinese people get that one wrong? They should have been happy for us to stupify their people with opium?

  • Dogsnob

    “…primary responsibility for these horrid deaths lies with the people who manufactured these pills.”

    So if I nip down to Morrisons and swig down a bottle of bleach off the shelf, who then do we castigate?

    • Remittance Man

      A better analogy would be if you had nipped down to Morrisons and bought a six pack of White Lightning or a bottle of Zambian whisky only for your grieving relatives to discover it had been made using rat poison.

      I think Alex’s argument is that, if legalised, recreational pharmaceuticals would be manufactured under the same quality and hygene rules as booze. Or bread for that matter.

      • Dogsnob

        hmmm….Morrisons stock whisky laced with rat poison? What’s the world coming to eh?
        I know very well what Alex’s point is, as he bangs on in the same misguided direction at frequent intervals.

  • Jupiter

    I really don’t see what the problem is with a few druggies dying. Fewer druggies means less crime, hopefully a lot more of them will snuff it.

    • malcolmkyle

      “The more obvious the failure becomes, the more shamelessly they exhibit their genuine motives. In plain words, what moves them is the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate, which is to say: upon everyone who is free from their barbarous theological superstitions, and is having a better time in the world than they are.

      They cannot stop the use of alcohol, nor even appreciably diminish it, but they can badger and annoy everyone who seeks to use it decently, and they can fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences, and they can get satisfaction thereby for the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy. And all this they can do with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.”

      —an extract from “Notes on Democracy” by Henry Louis Mencken, written in 1926, during alcohol prohibition, 1919-1933

    • RobertC

      Just when Darwin’s ‘Theory’ of Evolution becomes useful, the Liberals shy away from it!

  • Hexhamgeezer

    There’s a ‘War on Drugs’? Must’ve missed that one.

  • Monkey Sputum

    Here is a snippet from the mind of a prohibitionist.

    “Marijuana spreads AIDS and HIV. Users can catch schizophrenia off one toke and they may have it for some time. Dirty needles used in conjunction with cannabis often tend to carry the HEP C virus which can only be activated by the THC within a ‘hit’ of the killer drug.
    Pot is a killer class B narcotic that can kill anyone at any time. Those liberal hippy scumbags just want you to be another victim of the deadly weed plant they released into society to kill hardworking capitalists.”

  • fantasy_island

    So what do you propose Alex, should we legalise all drugs or just some of them?

    If all of them, then it seems logical that we also legalise all new drugs that may be developed in the future. Legislating blind if you like.

    I can only assume that once the inevitable taxes are applied to the regulated sale of newly legalised drugs, then the free market principle will apply and the dealers will simply undercut state retailers.

    I just do not see how it can work.

    • Keith D

      Dealers will try this with some success.Decriminalising will free up police resources to really go after these people.Those buying drugs would rather not buy from criminal gangs peddling contaminated goods.Right now theres no choice.We should legislate for a safer option.

    • Daniel Maris

      No – I don’t think we need to legalise all drugs (anymore than we legalise all forms of alcoholic drinks – real absinthe is not legal). We need to legalise the main drugs that people use: cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD, heroin etc.

      The drugs could be manufactured by the state to a high standard of purity. They could be packaged with health advice and warnings about effects.

      They could be sold through licensed street dealers and pharmacies. Licensed street dealers would be your eyes and ears to prevent illegal dealers operating.

      There could be an age limit (possibly variable) on sales of drugs.

      But the deprohibition approach could be allied with a much tougher policy in schools include testing of children for drug use; placing a legal duty on parents to prevent drug use in their homes; and a much stronger “anti” public health message (compare “Frank” with the anti-smoking message! – Frank is almost pro-drugs in its message).

      • Ben Kelly

        So, what you would like is for the state to be a centralised drug dealer? You want the state to manufacture and sell stupefying drugs to its citizens in order to raise money and you think this is perfectly moral and sensible? This is simply the Road to Serfdom, it sounds like a Huxley inspired nightmare. A nation of foggy minded, drug addled citizenry too pacified to question anything the state does. I’m sure that’s the road to productivity. How anyone cites alcohol or tobacco legalisation as an argument FOR legalisation of hard drugs I do not know. Alcohol does an enormous amount of damage to people and I meet people every week in my line of work who are rendered hopeless and pitiful by it. But once you legalise something is near enough impossible to then de-legalise it, which is why it is hard to curb alcohol. What Alcohol does to British people isn’t an argument for throwing hard drugs into the mix at all, our city centres and the resorts of Spain, Greece, Majorca, Ibiza, etc. are testament to how well Britain would handle the state sponsored drugs free for all you so enthusiastically sponsor. Look at the massive lengths government and society at large has had to take just to stop people smoking, why on Earth legalise hard drugs?
        As they are they are basically decriminalised, those caught in possession or under the influence are cautioned and sent to a drug support worker like me, this is hardly the draconian war on drugs so often disingenuously discussed. Legalisation would only expand the amount of misery, apathy and distress that I see every week from addicts who have demoralised and trapped themselves in drug addiction that has destroyed them and their families.

        • Daniel Maris

          This is no different from the approach adopted in Scandinavia, where the state took over producing alcohol and then marketed it in a way designed to minimise its use and educate against its misuse.

          I very much doubt that legalisation of these drugs would expand use. You have seen the results of drug use in a setting of criminalisation.

          One thing legalisation would do is generate government revenue which could be applied to anti-drugs education, and free counselling for all under 25s (since a lot of drug use is related to psychological problems that are best tackled through counselling) and healthy lifestyle alternatives.

          • Ben Kelly

            No, I’ve seen it in a setting of basic decriminalisation. Nearly all of the drug users I meet were cautioned and sent for drug support, they were not prosecuted for using of being in possession of the drugs. Also, many of the more prolific criminals get very lenient punishment for the burglaries, robberies, shop lifting, muggings etc. as a precise result of being a deemed a ‘drug addict’, they are offered support. This is soft approach and basic decriminalisation, I see it with my own eyes, all week.
            I think the idea of the state sanctioning and profiting from the sale of Heroin, Crack Cocaine, Meth amphetamine from its citizenry is immoral and abhorrent. A tax on the misery and serfdom of many, many people. I do not accept that the legal status of alcohol is equivalent to this issue. Again, something that has been made legal is almost impossible to then make illegal. So we try to minimise the damage done by alcohol with various methods, which is good, of course. We do the same (but far more aggressively) with cigarettes. But the many, many social problems created by alcohol are hardly an argument for making hard drugs equivalent in legal terms, in fact it sounds like an argument against to me.
            Many people who are dependant on drugs will still need to fund their habit and will still commit crime. The many people I meet who are incapable parents because of drug use would not be better if the state was their drug dealer or if their drugs were bought from Boots or wherever.
            There is already anti-drugs education, that already happens! Drug addicts are sent to partly state funded charities for support for their various issues, this is what happens already in this country. We offer harm reduction advice, education on drugs. We offer them support in accessing education, jobs advice, skills training, counselling, housing, and advice on alternative lifestyles and diets. We are not beating them with clubs and locking them up, they are offered support and advice. There is drug education in our schools also. Under 25s and over 25s are already able to access free therapy from the NHS. So you are arguing for things that are already happening.
            Drug users are not victim of draconian laws, there is no mega war on drugs. Drugs are everywhere, used openly, sold all over the place. The people I meet who are drug users and have been caught in possession or under the influence are not criminalised, those that commit serious crimes because of their addiction receive leniency because of their addiction, that is the reality.
            Cheap and widely available alcohol has no doubt led to much greater use of alcohol. The loosening of the licencing laws certainly did, and the cheap prices in supermarkets has also. You can very much doubt all you like, though I see very weak foundations for your certainty, and believe that legalisation of hard drugs would certainly lead to an increase in their use and have many extremely negative consequences. I cannot abide an argument that is so narrow as to think that legalisation is the simple solution that solves this complex issue with no consequences to be considered.

            • Daniel Maris

              The point about free counselling would be stop a lot of people sliding into drugs addiction.

              Legalisation will certainly bring in health benefits in terms of the purity of the purity and standardised strength of the product.

              Best of all it will remove from the criminal underworld the super-profits that go with criminalisation.

              • Ben Kelly

                Yes, that is the point about free counselling, and I just told you they are able to access free counselling and have many different options to do so. Again, you are arguing for something that is already happening.

                These ‘health benefits’ are again an over simplification of something that is very complex. Generally the health problems caused by taking Cocaine, for example, are NOT caused by what they are mixed with, they are caused by the substance itself and the need to continually top oneself up to get the high. Cocaine is sold on the street at a purity of about ten percent; are you really trying to tell me that if my clients were snorting a much stronger, higher purity form of Cocaine that this would benefit their health? What planet do you live on?

                If the Heroin, Crack and Cocaine addicts I meet were taking substances nearer 80 or 90 percent purity rather than the far weaker mix that they buy, there would be a great increase in risks to their health, an exacerbation of their dependence and a very negative influence on their behaviour and actions in day to day life. Your proposal that if their drugs were purer and stronger they would be better off makes literally no sense whatsoever. None. It solves none of the problems my clients have, only makes them worse, you have given no real explanation for this dubious opinion, no evidence, and no experience.

                No, it would not remove the criminal underworld, it would simply make the criminal underworld legitimate, not remove it. It would make the murderous gangsters of Columbia, and countries such as this, far more powerful and rich. Again, things just are not as simple as you seem so desperate for them to be. Life is not simple, this issue is not simple. Making prostitution legal in Amsterdam has given free reign to organised criminal gangs, human traffickers, I saw this when I was living there, and this was explained to me by many a Mokummer too, and there is also a huge black market in Cannabis dealing too. Just as there is a world wide trade in bootleg cigarettes. These things are not simple.

        • DavidMHart

          There are only a limited number of option for who a drug is to be sold by.

          First, the experience of the last century or so shows that as long as there is demand, there will be supply – there is no magical ‘no drugs’ option, despite prohibitionists chasing that chimaera for decades.

          So for each drug we must choose. Should it be sold by

          a) criminals, who are motivated solely by profit, have no licence to lose and are therefore completely immune to government regulation, and whose violence in protecting their profit often causes collateral damage to people who don’t even have any involvement in the drugs industry,

          b) licenced private sector entities, who are also motivated by profit, but who can also be legally constrained by regulations on purity, dosage strength, age of consumer, place and times of sale limitations, requirements to produce accurate health information on the packaging, taxes to compensate for public health risks from using the drug, etc, or

          c) government agencies, who can be required to operate on a public health mandate, and can also implement all of the regulatory mechanisms associated with b)?

          I’m not convinced that there are any drugs for which a) is appropriate, since there is no drug that becomes safer when the entire control of its production and supply chain is gifted to criminals, but there are certainly some drugs, such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and a few others where we already have some form of option b), and even some limited circumstances (such as prescription methadone or prescription diamorphine) where we already have option c), albeit only for medicalised dependent users.

          There is no reason to presume that we would be unable to formulate a regulatory structure (including a tax regime) that minimises average harm to the user without either being so expensive/restrictive as to make people turn to the black market, or so cheap/easily accessible as to constitute a free-for-all. And alcohol is almost certainly not optimally regulated; we could do a lot more to encourage the slower drinking of milder forms of it, clam down on sales to minors, limit glamorous advertising, control price so as to not have some forms of it sold absurdly cheaply etc.

          But if anyone seriously asserts that having a drug in the exclusive domain of criminals, with all the harm to users and to innocent bystanders, and the massive loss of liberty and/or loss of opportunity for those caught, is the least harmful option for its manufacture and distribution, then the onus is heavily upon that person to produce good evidence. I’m not at all persuaded that there is any reason yet to think that.

          • Ben Kelly

            It really isn’t necessarily true that there only these simple black and white options. For a start I have to address the ‘massive loss of liberty’ for the users that are caught. Much of this discussion is based on the very false assumption that there is and has been an aggressive war on drugs on all fronts; this simply is not happening. Not to anything like the extent that people imagine. So saying this ‘war on drugs has failed’ is just nonsense as is talking about the ‘massive loss of liberty’ of users who are caught. They do not suffer this at all, if they are caught for JUST possession or being under the influence (rather than committing other crime) then they do not lose liberty or opportunity.

            What we have at the moment is unofficial decriminalisation; if you are caught in possession or under the influence you are sent to a support team having been unofficially cautioned by the police. Your personal situation is then assessed to see if you need further support in various areas of your life. You are never just sent to jail or punished. I meet a wide variety of people coming through the system in this way, from hardened drug users, to the sheepish middle class and students caught with drugs or under the influence (usually they may be doing something silly say, then get stopped and tested), they are not thrown in jail or given a criminal record at all. Many a person has come to me very relieved that e.g. they are not at risk of losing their job, or not being able to get a VISA to work/study abroad and things such as this, they are relived because they misunderstood current drugs policy as many people on this discussion board also do.

            That’s for the users, now as for the dealers, is there a nationwide clamp down by police or a ‘war on drugs’? No, no there isn’t. There is no serious attempt to track dealers or their supply chain. How do I know this? From my own experience and from what the police officers I work alongside are constantly telling me.

            I know from how easy it is to buy drugs and how openly it is done all over the place. In Leeds for an example there is an open network of drug dealers, their numbers are given out at clubs, on estates and on campuses, they are shared by people and are known to the police. These numbers put you through to an ‘operator’ who asks you what you want and where you want it delivered, few questions asked. These dealers are weed dealers first, so often people ask for weed, then a dealer drives to you, and then it is easy to buy anything else, they will either have it on them, or they will contact someone else who can then get you Heroin, Crack, Ecstasy etc. These dealers never even change their phone numbers or pick up points! My point being this whole citywide operation in Leeds (much the same in other major cities) could be shut down with fantastic ease in one day. These dealers are not too clever and are certainly not very secretive. In many cities (all over London) dealers sell on the streets in a surprisingly brazen fashion

            There really in no concerted effort being made to choke off supply or clamp down dealers and people caught in possession are not prosecuted. That is the situation as it currently is; just to be clear. So no argument or discussion should be started on any other foundation except this simple truth that I am witness to every single week.

            So one can easily make the argument that a far stronger effort at arresting dealers and squeezing supply chains would reduce the abuse of drugs. That argument CAN be made because no real effort is being made to do this currently. Instead we have decriminalisation of users combined with a real lack of effort at arresting dealers and tracking their supply chains. It could be argued that we should continue with decriminalisation but actually make a real effort to clamp down on dealers. Even when dealers do get arrested their punishment is pretty lenient and whatever sentence they get is almost instantly halved. No real war on drugs at all.

            It may very well be that you acknowledge all this and STILL believe in legalisation. This is your opinion and I respect that, though I do respectfully disagree. You made your comment in a measured and reasonable way (beyond the remit of many people) so thanks. I do just wish that people weren’t so dismissive of the facts that I inform them of, either ignoring me or not believing me I suppose. The fact remains that we have basic decriminalisation and the nationwide war on drugs is a myth. As I bore witness to yesterday, today and will tomorrow, as I know from my support worker role, as I know from my experience, the experience of drug users and from the police.

            • Ben Kelly

              * Note, my views on what SHOULD be our exact drugs policy are not black in white and not certain. It is always people with little understanding of drugs policy, no experience of dealing with drug users, dealers and the social problems created by drugs that have sweeping, simple solutions to this issue.

              The more you know, the more murky and difficult the whole subject gets. I have only ever put forward one actual opinion when discussing this subject on here (disagree with full legalisation) everything else I said was fact, not opinion. The answer to the question of what my drugs policy would be is ‘under review’, because more information brings more uncertainty. I used to believe in full decriminalisation, even often considering legalisation, when I began my role as a support worker in one of the many government sponsored charities that support drug users nationwide I realised that drugs HAD been decriminalised , this had been rolled out for quite some time- so that confused me as you can imagine. The more experience I have had the more difficult it has got and the more I have felt that I could not possible agree to a state sanction and legalisation of drugs.

              I do just wish people would realise I actually do have an informed opinion, just because I disagree with them doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of the subject or stupid, people have to be able to handle being disagreed with. I also wish people would stop assuming that I must be a horrible person to think the way I do and probably think we should lock users up or shoot them. For the most part all I’ve done is to try and recalibrate this discussion and base it on truth no myth, speculation and false presumptions.

      • Chalcedon

        ‘real’ absinthe was never made illegal in the UK.

    • Remittance Man

      As mentioned below most people confine their illegal habits to a relatively small selection of drugs. There will, of course, always be the odd minority who will try anything, but the only real reason we hear about some new craze for smoking used kitty litter mixed with horse linament or whatever is because the illegality of those normal drugs makes them difficult or expensive to obtain.

      Personally I would have thought that accepting people do want to get zonked and then creating a system whereby they can do it safely is the better way forward.

      As for the anti-free market argument you put forward, I have two questions.

      First: Once prohibition was ended, who became the major retailers of booze in the US? La Cosa Nostra or Jack Daniels?

      Second: What do the people who evade excise duties sell? Moonshine or regular booze they buy in low tax countries?

      • Ben Kelly

        Normal drugs, the illegal ones, are not difficult to obtain at all, I mean seriously, not at all. I just don’t know on what grounds you make that assumption. Nor are they particularly expensive really; over the last ten years most of them have got cheaper. In any major city any drug you want but especially weed, coke, smack, crack and Es can all be obtained very easily indeed and you do not have to break the bank. You can get a few hits of Heroin, Ecstasy (dirt cheap) or Crack cheaper than a bottle of Jack Daniels. So, I must contest that comment, I couldn’t resist, it is just completely false.
        People take new drugs such as M-Kat because someone cottons on to it, start bringing in a supply of it, start offering and selling it and then it just establishes itself like any of the other drugs. People are experimenting, drugs also change like fashions, a few years ago in Leeds Ketamine was all the rage, now that is hardly used and people are on to M-kat. People very often combine these new drugs such as M-Kat (these new drugs are by the way not that different from the better known ones) with Coke or pills or whatever. They are not in any way different from the more fashionable common drugs
        Just saying, those two particular points are not true, though it does not negate your wider argument but I was not attempting to do that.

        • malcolmkyle

          In addition to the many economical and societal costs of prohibition, it has a long history of driving the spread of harder or more dangerous drugs.

          MARIJUANA to dangerous synthetic concoctions —such as AM-2201, JWH-018, JWH-073, or HU-210, (called Spice or K2 etc.)

          POPPIES to morphine, to heroin, to krokodil.

          COCA to cocaine, to crack, to Paco/Kete/Bazuco/Pitillo.

          EPHEDRA to ephedrine, to methamphetamine.

          MUSHROOMS to ecstasy (MDMA), to PMMA, to MDPV, to 2CB/designers.

          At every step the reasons for the rise in popularity of the new form of the drug are one or more of the following:

          * It may be easier to smuggle.

          * It may be more addictive, thus compelling the buyer to return more frequently.

          * It may be cheaper to produce, therefore yielding more profit.

          * Like a game of “whack a mole” a shutdown of producers in one area will mean business opportunities for another set of producers with a similar product.

          Prohibition’s distortion of the immutable laws of ‘supply and demand’ subsidizes organized crime, foreign terrorists, corrupt cops, and unconscionable politicians, while feeding the prejudices of self-appointed culture warriors everywhere. So called Tough-On-Drugs politicians have happily built careers on confusing prohibition’s horrendous collateral damage with the substances that they claim to be fighting while the big losers in this battle are everybody else, especially we the taxpayers.

          • Ben Kelly

            This is not really an answer to this particular comment that I made, if you want to spend all your time being a keyboard warrior that is your prerogative, but don’t spam me with such similar and general comments. Seriously, I simply pointed out that illegal drugs are not hard to obtain because they quite simply are not. No point having a debate at all if it is on false grounds.

  • Daniel Maris

    We need a range of controlled “recreational” drugs,manufactured by the state, to be available through pharmacies and licensed dealers – with an age limit. This will reduce the number of deaths and, I believe, because you could add safety literature with the product, will ultimately result in fewer people becoming addicted.

    A policy of deprohibition coupled with a much stricter anti-message in schools (including testing) would I think greatly reduce drug use.

    • Sunburntland

      You might be interested to know of a recent death of a teenager, Henry Kwan, in NSW Australia was a a result of synthetic and at the time legally produced and purchased drugs. Also most drug related deaths in america is as a result of legally attainable medications, such as benzodiazepines.

      The purpose and mechanism of recreational drugs is to over stimulate certain neurological tissue ( or repress the stimulation of others) resulting in a temporary psychosis. There is no way of knowing how it will effect every individual as we don’t have complete knowledge of all the mechanisms of the brain. Addiction is similarly a psyho-somatic phenomenon, where even informed individuals are susceptible. Legalisation/decriminalisation may also increase the risk of poly-pharmacy among users or addicts therefore increasing their risk of death.

      Legalisation or decriminalisation should be considered with these issues in minds.

      • malcolmkyle

        How about we just legalise the drugs that can’t be kept out of prison?

        Tobacco is one of our most addictive and deadly drugs. Should we make tobacco illegal and gift the whole market to terrorists and criminals?

        Why not legalise and regulate all the dangerous drugs we don’t want our kids to have easy access to?

        • Sunburntland

          You haven’t address the argument the regulating induced psychosis is fanaticism in the realm of Huxley’s Brave New World. drug taking and addiction is a psycho-behavioural somatic phenomenon which permanently changes neurospace-synapse mechanisms in the body. All drugs do this, recreational drugs in particular require excessive metabolical pressures to cause the high. The high is not safe or controlled, it is a sign of induced electro-chemical fits in the brain.

          Tobbacco has been has been regulate to almost a decriminalised state here. Less than 15% of Australian’s smoke and the numbers are falling. The market here is so insignificant that tobacco companies have all but abandoned legally contending plain packaging. Furthermore tobacco does not induced psychosis or cause instantaneous death by over dose or suicide. Therefore to raise it as a counter argument is flawed.

          Legalisation and regulation works so well for preventing alcohol from falling in to the hands of minors, dose it not?

      • Daniel Maris

        You might be interested to know about the deaths of teenagers from using legal drugs prescibed by doctors – anti-acne creams, anti-depressants etc.

  • Keith D

    The Drug War warriors are directly responsible for these deaths.You are absolutely correct in your assertion that The War on Drugs is just as dangerous.I’m a bit of a libertarian so my natural position is against prohibition but its reinforced by the history we see the world over when prohibition is in force.

    Prohibition is what made the Mob in the thirties.It remunerates evil violent criminals who are allowed to amass a tax fee fortune at the expense of our children.They will manufacture and buy contaminated drugs just to eke out a profit.

    If the Government used a bit of basic common sense by controlling and legalising the supply they would at a stroke
    Impoverish these vile drug kingpins and their criminal underlings.
    Cut criminal activity significantly.
    Eliminate Drug wars on our streets.
    Secure our childrens wellbeing by ensuring non contaminated substances are supplied.
    Have a means of highlighting who has an addiction problem.
    Free up police time for more beneficial work.
    And by taxing them,earn a healthy amount of revenue for the Exchequer.

    • Ben Kelly

      Wow, it’s oh so easy isn’t when you think in simplistic binary terms and never open your mind enough to consider unintended consequences and the complexity of the situation. In one swoop all the criminals will be neutralised, our children’s wellbeing would be secured, and the police have free time with other things such as dealing with the further proliferation of burglaries, thefts,muggings etc. as people fund their now legal habit yaaaay! You see, legal or not, people who get dependant of drugs would still need to fund their expanding habit and would then commit crimes in order to do this. The thieves, burglars, muggers, shoplifters etc that I meet every week in the course of my day as a support worker would not just suddenly become upstanding citizens. Who knew it was sooo easy and all it takes was the great wonder of drug legalisation!

      Of course there would be no black market, no gangs, no nothing, and that is all it takes eh? Woweeeeee. No worries because the state is now our drug dealer, stupefying its citizens and filling its coffers, now there’s a utopian vision eh? A state free to do as it wishes because so many of its citizens are busy indulging their new legal habits.

      In Amsterdam prostitution is legal but criminal gangs control it, things aren’t as simple as you seem to think they are. Would all these gangsters disappear or would they simply have been given a sanction to get away with what they are doing? Should we have advertisements for Cocaine, and Heroin? Why not if they simply part of our consumer society now? Did the Mafia and organised crime disappear when prohibition was lifted? Should we simply legalise all of their activities in order to neutralise them?

      If there is a war on drugs, and draconian measures, why is it that people caught in possession or under the influence simply get cautioned and sent to a drug support worker? There will already be many booked in for my day tomorrow. We offer them various forms of support, some don’t need it, many do. Will legalising drugs soothe the problems I had last week with several hopeless drug users distraught that they were close to losing their kids because their homes had become unsafe due to their use of drugs? Or do we just think ‘yeah but as long as students, socialites and middle class people can have a bit of fun sod the proles’…. ? Because with this kind of thinking it is ALWAYS people at the bottom of society who suffer the most while you pat yourself, so smugly, on the back.

      You have described a utopia created by drug legalisation and expect me to swallow that as an intelligent argument. Meanwhile in the real world rational people realise that state sponsored drug dealing is serfdom, legalisation and ready access of hard drugs will lead to proliferation of use (Good God, Brits can’t even drink sensibly! The orgy of alcohol drinking is not an argument FOR drug legalisation, it is an example of what happens when such things are legalised, they cannot be taken back, and cause all kinds of problems).

      If we want to have a functional society then we have to have this debate sensibly and built on a foundation of truth. So lets get this clear, there is no serious ‘war on drugs’ in this country, there are no ‘draconian’ punishments for people caught in possession or under the influence, these things are all true and I witness to it all of the time, the issue is far more complex then ‘legalise drugs and everything will be sorted’.There is already a widely available and accessible supply of drugs all over the country, everywhere, openly taken, openly dealt and openly available (because there is no serious clamp down), the idea that the state should legalise it and then seek to fill its coffers from it thereby sanctioning an expansion and proliferation of the availability and access without those pesky (much unenforced) law against it , is utter madness in my opinion. You have simplified the issue beyond belief when it is extremely complex.

      • Ben Kelly

        I will just say that I apologise for the long reply, I don’t mean to be indulgent but is rather a heated debate to be giving short comments.

        • Keith D

          It is extremely complex.However if we’re all interested in harm reduction then surely securing a safe means of supply will be of benefit.I think thats the point Alex is making.You appear to be making the case that some people will just not be helped,and through personal experience I would agree with that.But its not all,and can we please differentiate between the smacks,cracks etc and the substances kids use for recreational purposes of a weekend.These kids do not rob,mug or burgle to pay for these.They just want to know that their purchase is safe.But dont worry Ben,your views still hold sway with the cancer dealing tobacco supporting Government who are also delighted to support the ridiculous levels of thuggery through booze seen every weekend.

          • Ben Kelly

            ‘Some people will just not be helped’ was nothing like what I was saying. You really do keep the blinkers on wen in discussion. You are getting very mixed up now. With a sneer you say ‘But dont worry Ben,your views still hold sway with the cancer dealing tobacco supporting Government who are also delighted to support the ridiculous levels of thuggery through booze seen every weekend.’ Which is nicely insulting (well done, childish and petulant argument against an opposing opinion, very mature and respectful of you) but really makes you look foolish when in the comment before you were advocating state sanctioned and state sponsored drug legalisation and control.
            So you sneer at the ‘cancer dealing tobacco supporting government’ and yet think they should have the same approach with Heroin, Crack, Cocaine etc. You somehow try and equate my honest opinions with the immoral actions of government, supporting tobacco and delighting in the support of alcohol, when you have just then recommended that the government control the supply of hard drugs in the same way. Very mixed up indeed, these things do not go together, you look foolish and confused.
            The many, many problems problems that individuals and society suffer because of alcohol are not a strong argument for giving hard drugs the same status.
            Why must I differentiate between the ‘smacks, cracks’ as you call them when nearly all of these people I work with started out as the ‘kids’ using for recreational purposes. What did you think all of these people went straight to crack? Do you think they are simply self abusers rather than people who began using recreationally before coming dependant? Is it just plain snobbery that all thinking about this issue should be based on the activities of the middle class smoking weed, snorting lines and popping Es on the weekend without any consideration on the wider consequences for other people?
            I don’t really understand why you have to be so arrogant, so sneering, dismissive and so very, very certain of yourself when having this discussion. I have merely spoken about my direct experience and the truth of the matter. I actually haven’t really given you many of my ‘views’ on what should or could be done about drugs, drug addicts and the related social problems. I have told you how things are currently from my day-by-day work experience, and how complex this issue is, the possible consequences of simple sweeping statements and proposed solutions. The only ‘view’ I have really offered is that I do not agree that drugs should be legalised. Your are assuming a lot about me and my opinions and dismiss my own extensive work and life experience without any serious though. You have, in your narrow minded, muddled and arrogant way, dismissed everything I said out of hand. I will look elsewhere for a discussion with a grown up.

            • Keith D


              • Ben Kelly

                Goodbye. Don’t ever trouble yourself with opposing views or considering that other people may have informed opinions that are different from yours. Keep patting yourself on the back with a smug grin, it makes for a far easier and simpler life. Enjoy yourself.

  • Malcolm Kyle

    Drugs can be dangerous but prohibition usually ends in countless deaths; if you support prohibition then you are guilty of aiding and abetting the act of murder.

    • harpat

      Suicide by drug addicts is not murder. Encouraging non addicts to use drugs by legalizing them and kill them is more like murder.

      • whoisjg

        You sir are ignorant and undeserving of the liberty you enjoy.

        • harpat

          The liberty to not use drugs?

    • harpat

      More deaths also occur when police hunts down killers. So killing should be liberalized?

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