A sensible policy on drugs could be Nick Clegg’s legacy


by Septicisle    
9:43 am - October 16th 2012

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Whenever there’s a new, in-depth, excellently researched and extremely carefully worded report released which calls for a reform of our increasingly antiquated drug laws, it’s always worth going and seeing what the Daily Mail has written about it.

The UK Drug Policy Commission’s final report has then, as you might have expected, been giving the Mail treatment. Their article, which doesn’t feature on the voluminous front page of their website, does the classic trick of misrepresenting the report by picking on one comparison it uses.

Hence the Mail’s report claims the report says “smoking cannabis is just like eating junk food”, when it naturally says nothing of the sort. What it does say is (on page 108, PDF):

A small but significant segment of the population will use drugs. We do not believe that pursuing the goal of encouraging responsible behaviour means seeking to prevent all drug use in every circumstance. This is not to say that we consider drug use to be desirable. Just like with gambling or eating junk food, there are some moderately selfish or risky behaviours that free societies accept will occur and seek to limit to the least damaging manifestations, rather than to prevent entirely.

The Mail quotes the second half of the paragraph, but not the first part which makes clear why they’re making the comparison. Much of the rest of the Mail’s report is a fair summing up of the UKDPC’s conclusions, but it’s the headline and opening sentence that as always set the tone.

It’s a great shame, and shows exactly the hurdles that still need to be leapt through to get anything approaching sensible coverage of calls for drug law reform, especially as the report’s conclusions are thoroughly conservative and incremental rather than revolutionary.

It doesn’t advocate the decriminalisation of all drugs, let alone their legalisation; what it does suggest is that the possession of a small amount of a controlled drug could be made a civil rather than a criminal offence, leading to fines and referrals to drug awareness or treatment sessions rather than sanctions through the criminal courts.

Similarly, it suggests that either decriminalising or altering the sanctions for the growing of cannabis for personal use could strike a blow against the current situation where empty houses or warehouses are rented or broken into and used by criminal gangs to grow the high-strength strains of the drug that have caused such concern over recent years.

More optimistically, it calls for a cross-party political forum to be set up to examine where drug policy to go from here. Sadly, even if one were to be created, should it come up with the “wrong” conclusions and proposals then it’s highly unlikely it would get us any further.

With both the main parties clearly wedded to prohibition, regardless of how this report has apparently been welcomed even by the likes of Jack Straw, ideally there should be someone from the third party with a high profile who could make a break with the failed policies of the past by being clear about where we’ve been going wrong for so long.

Want a legacy that could eventually underline your role in the coalition, Nick?

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About the author
'Septicisle' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He mostly blogs, poorly, over at Septicisle.info on politics and general media mendacity.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Crime ,Health ,Libdems ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Clegg? Are you serious?

2. liyhfitdllyuft

A sensible policy on drugs could be Nick Clegg’s legacy

In other news. Pigs have been reported flying above St Paul’s Cathedral, and a cow was seen jumping over the moon.

It doesn’t advocate the decriminalisation of all drugs, let alone their legalisation; what it does suggest is that the possession of a small amount of a controlled drug could be made a civil rather than a criminal offence, leading to fines and referrals to drug awareness or treatment sessions rather than sanctions through the criminal courts.

What? You could be re-educated like you can now if you are caught speeding? No thanks.

I’d rather break the pernicious law honestly on the basis that it is my natural right to decide what drugs to take and it is not a matter over which the state has any legitimate jurisdiction.

4. Chaise Guevara

Yeah, but this isn’t a sensible policy on drugs. It has advantages (not pointlessly ruining people’s lives and wasting prison cells) and disadvantages (sending the message that drugs are safe, which kinda depends on the drug and the source), but more to the point misses better opportunities.

The sensible policy would be to legalise some or all currently illegal narcotics. This would allow us to:

*raise money on drugs as a country, rather than spend money combating their sale
*make drugs and their procurement far safer
*have the government honestly educate people on the downsides of drugs, rather than publishing hysterical “DRUGS WILL KILL YOU!!!” PSAs that nobody takes seriously and are probably counter-productive
*last but not least, respect people’s personal liberty.

Sadly, this won’t be happening anytime soon due to misinformation, public conservatism and small-mindedness, and (I think) international agreements. But this would be the smart move.

5. Chaise Guevara

@ 3 pagar

“What? You could be re-educated like you can now if you are caught speeding? No thanks.”

I’d take “re-education” (which here probably means a couple of hours being condescended to, after which you’re free to ignore everything you’re just been told) over a jail sentence and criminal record.

“I’d rather break the pernicious law honestly on the basis that it is my natural right to decide what drugs to take and it is not a matter over which the state has any legitimate jurisdiction.”

Couldn’t you do this regardless of the sentence for being caught?

There is however far too much money from the Drinks Lobby, Mexican and Colonban drug lords, and moralisers for anything like decriminalisation or legalisation to ever happen as well.

There is one question that is never answered or even asked…
What difference to consuption would legalising drugs actually make

If we accept that the continued falling price means that drugs are already readily available for many people

We can all buy alcohol almost 24/7 but most of us are at work or college or looking after children etc in a perferctly sober state

So how many more people would take drugs if they were legal.

Would the harm done to the individuals be out weighed by the benefits to those addicted at the minute as they would get cleaner drugs and be able to get help more easily.

We already tollerate harmful drugs such as alcohol and tobacco (and junk food).

My personal view as someone who lived through the rave scene of the early 90s and all it entailed, is that a few more people will try recreational drugs, but like alcohol they will control their use.

Some people are pre-disposed to addiction and the vast majority of these already have a drink or drug problem.

“You could be re-educated like you can now if you are caught speeding?”

You see, this is exactly the sort of rhetoric that loses libertarian positions support. To equate drug rehabitalitation and treatment with ‘re-education’ is just absurd.

The war on drugs is clearly a failure. But that doesn’t mean that some people don’t develop dangerous and disabling addictions to drugs (legal and illegal) that ruin their own lives, and those of others. And many would like help and treatment to tackle these addictions. Of course, the best way to achieve this would be to stop criminalising users and offer treatment instead. But pretending treatment is somehow sinister, to be equated with ‘re-education’ – a phrase with all the connotations of an actual authoritarian regime – doesn’t help move debate in the direction of sanity at all.

You really are your own worst enemy.

@ Chaise

I’d take “re-education” (which here probably means a couple of hours being condescended to, after which you’re free to ignore everything you’re just been told) over a jail sentence and criminal record.

Clearly, you lack all principle…….

@ Redfish

What difference to consumption would legalising drugs actually make

Evidence, from Portugal, suggests that consumption would fall but really your question is irrelevant.

@ Planeshift

To equate drug rehabilitation and treatment with ‘re-education’ is just absurd.

The reference in the OP was to “drug awareness sessions” which sounds like “speeding classes” to me. Or are you suggesting these are sessions where you get to try them out?

Because I am already aware of what drugs do, I’d just like to be able, if I wish, to get my hands on them without the current hassle due to their criminalisation.

10. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 Redshift

“There is one question that is never answered or even asked…
What difference to consuption would legalising drugs actually make”

Probably because it’s a “what if?” and the answer isn’t knowable. There’s evidence in favour of legalisation decreasing usage, but it’s weak: alcohol use went up under US prohibition, and cannabis usage is lower in the Netherlands than it is in the UK.

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 9 Pagar

“Clearly, you lack all principle…”

I have plenty of principles. I just don’t adhere to a weird one that says “If convicted of something you don’t believe should be illegal, choose the worst punishment available to spite yourself”.

Also, if you think “re-education” is worse than jail, doesn’t that put you at odds with your own principle for choosing what you see as the less bad punishment?

Next time, think before you moralise.

@ Chaise at al

I’m going to put my head on the chopping block here.

I accept that there is, at the very least, a strong prima facie argument for the state having no business telling individuals what substances they can or cannot choose to put into their bodies.

However, our experience has been that the social harm done by dangerous and addictive drugs is orders of magnitude greater in the case of legal drugs than it is in the case of illegal drugs. Alcohol and tobacco do far more social harm than other drugs which are similarly dangerous and addictive but which are not legally available.

People sometimes talk as if that’s a reason for making other similarly dangerous and addictive drugs legal, which always strikes me as deeply perverse. “Drug legalisation to be rolled out after tobacco pilot scheme records just 80,000 deaths a year!” “Drug legalisation trial heralded ‘a triumph’ after alcohol-related hospitalisations top 1 million!” Huh?

I understand that not every drug has the widespread appeal of alcohol or tobacco (for cultural reasons among others) and that we shouldn’t therefore expect an immediate explosion in heroin use (say) the day after drug legalisation. But surely it would be crazy to ignore the two excellent case studies we have available concerning the impact on public health, violent crime, family break-up, road accidents etc. etc. of legalising particular drugs?

I’m not defending the status quo by any means, and I’m certainly not dismissing the case made in this report for the decriminalisation of possession of small quantities of certain drugs, but flat-out, anyone-should-be-able-to-buy-anything legalisation? I’d take some convincing.

If drug use only harmed the users, I think that prima facie case for the state keeping its nose out would stand up. But it doesn’t. It has social costs too. The trick is to find, for each drug, the point between outright prohibition and unrestricted availability that strikes the right balance in terms of maximising individual freedom and minimising social harm. (Always bearing in mind that prohibition can have harmful effects in itself.) There’s a reason why this sort of report takes six years to produce and not six seconds.

In the old days, this would have been an obvious candidate for a Royal Commission, but since Maggie decided they were too consensual, we haven’t had any of those…

14. Chaise Guevara

@ GO

You’re right that social consequences need to be weighed up, but I think you’re mistaken to treat alcohol and tobacco as case studies, for several reasons.

Firstly, they don’t in fact show the effect of legalising drugs. They show the effect of drugs existing. This isn’t the same thing. It’s an assumption to say that drug use would go up after legalisation (long-term, at least; I imagine there would be a brief exploratory boom).

Secondly, as a mirror to the first point, you need to consider the effect of not legalising drugs (you mentioned this in parenthesis but don’t seem to have accounted for it), which we can’t see with booze and smokes. What would be the social cost of banning booze, leading to people blinding themselves with moonshine? What would be the social cost of banning tobacco, criminalising addicts and putting billions into the hands of organised criminals?

Thirdly, the effect of all drugs is different. Booze has a big social cost for two reasons beside long-term health damage: first, it’s almost universally popular, and second, it has effects that tend to encourage irresponsible or violent behiviour. Cannabis wouldn’t do this. Ecstasy wouldn’t. Hell, heroin probably wouldn’t. Cocaine probably would.

Cigarettes, on the other hand, are way more addictive than all but the scariest narcotics, and do insane amounts of long-term harm. AFAIK, fags are more dangerous than clean heroin (the impurities are a big part of the problem with street scag), although I’m sure heroin is more likely to make you waste your life.

In short, three problems with using booze/fags as a case study: it doesn’t test what it says it does; even if it did, it only examines half the issue; and it’s apples and oranges anyway.

Side note: I smoke and drink, Fred takes weed and cocaine. Why should I be able to partake of my vices in a pub beer garden, sitting next to an off-duty police officer, when he can’t?

@pagar – the OP says ” to drug awareness or treatment sessions”

So I’m assuming they are on the lines of the same spectrum of ‘activity designed to reduce consumption of drugs’.

Two points.

Firstly, are there any politicians/political parties (within a reasonable shout of power) willing to take on the Daily Mail and other tabloids? At present, we see a depressing pattern of retired politicians/police officers etc coming forwards whereas active ones don’t.

On this subject note the typical Mail “Press Council proofing”: inflammatory and inaccurate headline and first paragraph, qualified at the end of the article. This works because many people only read haedlines and mayby the first paragraph, but, in the event of a complaint, they can point out the whole article.

Secondly, comparing the tobacco and drugs, it is worth noting that it was largely social pressure that caused and causes the dramatic decline in smoking. With drugs being illegal, this approach is largely innefectual.

GO: Your stance is pretty much reflected in the report. It recommends trialling everything, starting with decriminalising the possession of small amounts of cannabis, examining the effects that has, both positive and negative, and then and only then moving on to a similar approach to other drugs. I don’t think anyone’s seriously suggesting that heroin or crack be legalised and on sale alongside the booze except for the real hardcore libertarians. I doubt they can ever be legalised, although certainly there would be benefits to their being decriminalised.

Oh, and stranger things have happened concerning politicians and drug policy once they’re out of office on the Clegg point. Who ever imagined someone like Bob Ainsworth would come out in favour of decriminalisation?

People should be free to ingest whatever substances they wish in private.

And part (much?) of the money saved from drug enforcement could be spent on realistic drug education (including alcohol and tabacco).

End of story. Give people the information: leave them to make their choices. Most people, I suspect, will be sensible…

@ Planeshift

the OP says ”to drug awareness or treatment sessions”

Well if you’re happy being “referred” to one for your “civil offence” (whatever that is) good and well.

As I’ve said, I’d prefer to be found guilty of breaking an iniquitous law than succumb to that kind of tosh.

Each to his own.

21. Chaise Guevara

@ 17 septicisle

“I don’t think anyone’s seriously suggesting that heroin or crack be legalised and on sale alongside the booze except for the real hardcore libertarians.”

I’m hardly a hardcore libertarian, and I can see an argument for their legalisation. Although I’d move much more cautiously with these two (plus crystal meth) than other common recreational drugs. At first, I’d be more tempted to decriminalise possession and make them available on prescription.

“Well if you’re happy being “referred” to one for your “civil offence” (whatever that is) good and well.

It would be preferable to a criminal record (therefore soem types of employment blocked) and cheaper for the taxpayer. (Although still nothing to stop employers testing people and adopting employment policies related to drug use)

Plus if the sessions were genuinely informative it would improve information and help users make a choice.

Oh…and if you’d genuinely prefer a prison sentence then all you’ll have to do is punch the person taking the session anyway.

7. Redfish

” There is one question that is never answered or even asked…
What difference to consuption would legalising drugs actually make. ”

I think that question far from never being asked is always asked. This being the interwebz where logic and reason are in short supply and nuance and grey areas are rarely considered. Many people confronted with a proposition move immediately to the most extreme example that pops into their head. Legalise proscribed narcotics and everyone within a short period would become an addict to the most destructive drugs. Logic tells us that is utter rubbish because people who do not smoke or do not want to smoke don’t suddenly become smokers if they visit a country where cigarettes are very cheap.

What would be expected to happen in full legalisation and I believe the academic studies have shown in limited decriminalisation. Those who already use drugs would slightly increase their consumption if they were cheaper. The people at the margin would use drugs if they were more freely available. None of that should be surprising or particularly cause for alarm.

What would happen has to be considered in the context of what is happening with current policy.

The US racket and its negligible effect on addiction rates:

http://assets.theagitator.com/wp-content/uploads/40Years0fDrugWarFailure.jpg

Spending on the drugs control policy had been very good for those working in that industry and a monumental disaster for everyone else.

Where I have some sympathy for public policymakers is having to deal with the consequences of people moving to the most extreme example they can think of as their default assumption to any relaxation of drugs law. Even where they want to change public policy it is very difficult because people find it hard to imagine any other world than the one they live in. Therefore, incremental steps should be welcomed. “It is better to light a small candle than curse the darkness”. Those who benefit from our current policies and we are not speaking about the criminals will inevitably be the most vociferous defenders of current policy.

24. Chaise Guevara

“Oh…and if you’d genuinely prefer a prison sentence then all you’ll have to do is punch the person taking the session anyway.”

You can take my drugs, but you canna take my freedom!

I demand that you now take my freedom!

As an aside I know a few people who took the speed awareness courses in lieu of points on their license, prior to going on it they were convinced it would be a load of condescending bollocks that would be a waste of everyone’s time. Post course they all said that it was actually quite interesting and informative and really made them think about their speed while driving, and that they were glad they’d gone and done it.

Either the courses are good, or someone’s replaced my work mates with very accurate automatons.

pagar,

What? You could be re-educated like you can now if you are caught speeding? No thanks.

I’d rather break the pernicious law honestly on the basis that it is my natural right to decide what drugs to take and it is not a matter over which the state has any legitimate jurisdiction.

ISTM the paper is trying to get political support for change, instead of adopting a no compromise position that has no chance of going anywhere.

@25. Cylux: “As an aside I know a few people who took the speed awareness courses in lieu of points on their license, prior to going on it they were convinced it would be a load of condescending bollocks that would be a waste of everyone’s time.”

I have the normal (stats)/conventional (social) bias that I drive with above average ability. The only way to change my bias is to confront me with my own failings. An enforced course or a set of Advanced Driving Lessons might make me think more; but how long does it take for the lessons to wear off?

There are many great lessons in a book by Dennis Jenkinson called _The Racing Driver_. But when reading the book, you simply identify that great racing drivers are completely different from the rest of us. The only way to discover if you are great is to seek greatness; it is not an ability that can be demonstrated on the street. Few racing drivers have my perspicacity, but I am squinting at the screen whilst many of them have eagle eyes. Greatness as a racing driver is not ready for me.


The author of _Junkie_, William S Burroughs wrote many times about heroin: Don’t go near it. Burroughs spent his adult life near it and his writing (I’ve read most of it) would have been a lot better if he had spent less time around heroin.

Drug consumption *may* fuck you up, and more drugs make it easier to fuck up. I’m still thinking.

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 27 Charlieman

“The author of _Junkie_, William S Burroughs wrote many times about heroin: Don’t go near it. Burroughs spent his adult life near it and his writing (I’ve read most of it) would have been a lot better if he had spent less time around heroin.”

Would Naked Lunch have never been written? That would have been a major improvement.

“Drug consumption *may* fuck you up, and more drugs make it easier to fuck up. I’m still thinking.”

All else being equal, yes. But there are consequences to either position here. Illegal smack is a fuckload more likely to kill you, even if you discount side-effects like being stabbed by your dealer because you bought on tick and now can’t afford to pay up.

And then there’s the general position that adults have the right to get fucked up if they so choose.

@28. Chaise Guevara: “Would Naked Lunch have never been written? That would have been a major improvement.”

When I was in my teens and twenties, Naked Lunch intrigued me. I was a fool. Reading Naked Lunch assisted my adult development. I’d have lived without it.

The war on drugs has not been lost. It has never been fought.

The only exception to this was Jim Callaghan’s period as Home Secretary, ridiculed and reviled to this day by the pro-poison lobby, people in thrall to the memory of the wildly overrated, though only too influential, Roy Jenkins.

We need a single category of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on.

Only a Labour Home Secretary, and subsequent Labour Prime Minister, has ever even attempted to come close to fighting the war on drugs. Eradicating drugs, prostitution and pornography is, like restricting alcohol and gambling, an attack on the “free” market, and firmly in the tradition of the Labour Movement’s pioneers.

Ed Miliband, over to you.

To the cost/benefit analysis it’s worth bearing in mind that one of the major funders of pro-war on drugs politicians, particularly in the states, are the major narcotics producers – the cartels. Basically the illegal drugs trade is their living, their bread and butter, and it gives them lots of money which translates into a lot of power. They are people you don’t want to see wielding power. The war on drugs grants it them.

Far as I’m concerned not feeding money back to them is a good enough reason to not touch drugs, but apparently I’m in a minority, so it’s worth bearing in mind that in addition to points raised by others, maintaining a war on drugs policy might reduce social ills here, but at the cost of massively increasing social ills elsewhere.

Australia’s government had a royal commission concerning the harm to self and society from drugs six years ago. It found that alcohol, while legal and unclassified was actually more dangerous than all other drugs studied, with the exception of heroin and cocaine (prohibited class a), barbiturates (prescription only class c) and methadone (prescription only class a).

That royal commission also found the legal classification of other drugs studied was decidedly arbitrary too. With class b and c drugs actually more harmful than some class a drugs. The least harmful were MDMA, LSD. And psilocybin (all 3 far less harmful than cannabis, which was itself less harmful than alcohol)

This indicates to me that the arbitrary classification of drugs was ultimately based upon ignorance of politicians and propaganda of those who benefit the most from prohibition – the cartel of gangsters, law enforcement and moralisers that are boringly familiar from the past 40 years…

@30 David Lindsey

Only one category of illegal drug…

Of course your personal drug of choice will stay legal. It is in the that’s different coz I use it category, right? Hypocrisy is a disgusting characteristic of prohibition…

34. the a&e charge nurse

In time people could learn not to worry too much about what other people shlurp, sniff, or inject so long as others do not suffer because of it – historically a certain level of public anxiety relates to perceptions of harm, real or imagined, inflicted on others that has arisen because of some people’s drug use.

Now according to the boffins (p35 of the report) ‘Drug problems develop for complex reasons, including an individual’s genetic + biological make-up, personality traits, personal history and social circumstances ……. m’mmm.

Or put another way can certain drug use be conceptualised as an ‘illness’ that should be regarded in just the same way as diabetes, or cancer – and if it is an illness how should this affect availability, and drug policy.

At the heart of the drug debate is the idea of harm to others that arises from various forms of dependence even though we only have fluffy definitions as to whether or not the dependence itself constitutes a bona fide medical condition – some say it doesn’t
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/non_fictionreviews/3670042/Addicted-to-getting-it-wrong-about-heroin.html

35. Chaise Guevara

@ 29 Charlieman

I found the surreal stream-of-hallucinating-consciousness thing charming for the first few pages. By the time I got a quarter of the way through, I realised that it was gibberish that tended to go down rather gratuitiously disturbing paths, and gave up.

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 30 David

“the pro-poison lobby”

Having read this, I’m estimating an 80% probability that you’re a zealot who can’t discuss this rationally, but I’ll give it a shot on the off-chance.

“We need a single category of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on.”

So… your problem with illegal drugs is that they’re “poison”, i.e. bad for the user. And your solution to this is to fuck the user up worse by locking them in jail and (presumably) wrecking their life with a criminal record.

How does that work?

“Eradicating drugs, prostitution and pornography is, like restricting alcohol and gambling, an attack on the “free” market”

It’s also an attack on “free” human beings, not to mention impossible, and attempts thus far seem to have been counterproductive.

But that’s an old point. I’m more interested in why you want to eradicate the first three vices but only restrict the second two. Especially given that one of the vices you want to restrict (alcohol) is within one of the groups that you want to eradicate (drugs). How do you reconcile that?

37. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 Cylux

“Far as I’m concerned not feeding money back to them is a good enough reason to not touch drugs, but apparently I’m in a minority”

That doesn’t really follow. Not all drugs are produced by evil cartels. Your position is akin to deciding that you don’t like battery farming, so you’re not going to eat chicken even when it’s organically raised.

@ Cylux

I know a few people who took the speed awareness courses in lieu of points on their license, prior to going on it they were convinced it would be a load of condescending bollocks that would be a waste of everyone’s time.

I know several people who have taken them and they tell me its a load of condescending bollocks.

Either the courses are good, or someone’s replaced my work mates with very accurate automatons.

You’re a tax inspector, and I claim my £5.

@UKL

the paper is trying to get political support for change, instead of adopting a no compromise position that has no chance of going anywhere.

If you think drug de-prohibition is going anywhere, you are mistaken- it will ever remain a victim of our shabby democracy. Why they bother commissioning fresh studies, when everyone knows they will ignore the findings, is a complete mystery to me.

So why compromise principle for such a vague and unappetising carrot?

@ Chaise

I found the surreal stream-of-hallucinating-consciousness thing charming for the first few pages.

Try Henry Miller instead.

As much heroin, better sex and easier to read.

@UKL

the paper is trying to get political support for change, instead of adopting a no compromise position that has no chance of going anywhere.

If you think drug de-prohibition is going anywhere, you are mistaken- it will ever remain a victim of our shabby democracy. Why they bother commissioning fresh studies, when everyone knows they will ignore the findings, is a complete mystery to me.

So why compromise principle for such a vague and unappetising carrot?

I was in an optimistic mode instead of cynical mode.

41. Chaise Guevara

@ pagar

“So why compromise principle for such a vague and unappetising carrot?”

What principle is at stake in preferring jail to a lecture?

How is this principle compromised by making the law a little less authoritarian than it is now?

Would it be even better from your POV if drug use was a capital offence? More “principled”?

42. Chaise Guevara

@ 40 UKL

“I was in an optimistic mode instead of cynical mode.”

Or you, unlike certain people I could name, don’t massage your ego by fantasising about being a martyr.

@ Chaise

What principle is at stake in preferring jail to a lecture?

Who said anything about going to jail?

I said I was happy to break the prohibition law because I did not recognise the right of the state to impose it. If they want to put me in jail, they have to catch me doing it first!!!

The reason I took the three points rather than the re-education class was to AVOID a jail sentence (for head butting the tosser running the course which I couldn’t trust myself not to do).

Incidentally, there was a section of the invitation which said that the course could not be failed except by those “failing to actively participate”.

I had a brain flash of Malcom McDowell in Clockwork Orange!!!!

How is this principle compromised by making the law a little less authoritarian than it is now?

It isn’t. But can you point me to an authoritarian statute law that has been repealed recently or any Government action that has relinquished control?

If they decriminalised cannabis, for example, I would welcome that as a small first step along a long road.

But I’m not holding my breath.

“We need a single category of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on.”

Bah..thats nothing comapred to South East Asia. Stupid liberal.

(and Thailand will illustrate the stupidity of the approach very nicely)

45. Chaise Guevara

@ pagar

“Who said anything about going to jail?”

You moralised at me for saying I’d prefer a mandatory course to a jail sentence.

“I said I was happy to break the prohibition law because I did not recognise the right of the state to impose it. If they want to put me in jail, they have to catch me doing it first!!!”

Fine, but that’s a completely different thing.

“It isn’t.”

So, again, why are you whining about me and others lacking principle?

“But can you point me to an authoritarian statute law that has been repealed recently or any Government action that has relinquished control?”

Legalisation of civil partnerships. That’s about it off the top of my head. But you’re changing the subject again.

The answers you’ve provided to both my questions appear to contradict your earlier comments. And you’re continuing to avoid saying what this principle actually is. Is it martyrdom, perchance?

46. the a&e charge nurse

[44] indeed, evidence demonstrates, overwhelmingly, that prohibition policies have been failing, decade after decade.

Their lordships debated the matter and it was said, ‘First, as to the cost, the criminals and gangsters involved in the drugs trade are benefiting to the tune of about £320 billion a year, and I know that a lot of people in this House are aware of that. The most severe consequences of course have been in Latin America and Afghanistan. In Mexico, for example, drug trafficking employs some half a million workers and has involved some 5,600 killings a year. The profits to Latin American traffickers have financed 25 years of civil war in Colombia and devastating social disruption in Mexico, Peru and Bolivia. These profits are aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan and, indeed, funding the killing of British soldiers. That is what we are talking about here. The US spends some $40 billion a year trying to eliminate the supply of drugs; it arrests 1.5 million of its citizens each year; it imprisons half a million of them. We in Britain spend £19 billion or so on the criminal justice system responding to drugs and drug-related crime, most of it a consequence of the criminalisation of drug use’.
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2010-06-15a.948.0&s=speaker:13885#g948.2

You moralised at me for saying I’d prefer a mandatory course to a jail sentence.

Get over it.

The row of full stops following my comment was intended to convey that my tongue was in my cheek. I’ll do a smiley face next time……

My objection @3 was to the section in the OP which advocated people found guilty of minor drug taking “offences” be treated by compulsory education (referrals to drug awareness or treatment sessions)as if the culprits were victims who needed the help of the state to moderate their behaviour.

Why cannot the government understand that if I smoke, drink or take drugs it is because I enjoy doing so and, having balanced all the downsides with the upsides, I have decided to proceed?

I don’t, therefore, need to be nagged, punished, further educated, prohibitively taxed or, worst of all, helped. What I need is to be left alone to enjoy my life as I choose to live it.

Is that really asking for the stars?

48. Chaise Guevara

@ Pagar

I agree with you regarding drug law, which is why my first comment on this thread was to the effect that the proposal being floated is not, in fact, a “sensible” policy. If people need half-arsed therapy for enjoying cannabis or cocaine, then surely we need to have an intervention for every single person down the pub on Friday night, too.

I also share your suspicions that these courses will be a patronising waste of time, presenting one-sided information to the effect that drugs are bad, m’kay. They might even be presented by that total ignoramus Frank. I actually think safe driving courses might be more useful (as someone who does a fair bit of motorway driving, I would appreciate some people having it drummed into their thick skulls that, if you stay three feet behind another car at 70mph, you’ve got a good chance of ramming them by mistake).

UKliberty’s right, however. These proposals aren’t great, but they’d be an improvement on the status quo, so we ought to support them insofar as the only immediate choice is between this and what we have now.

49. Man on Clapham Omnibus

The fact that proportionally the likes of booze and fags kill tons more people in a year than prohibited drugs has been known for donkey’s years. However, add a bit of moral panic and hey presto the statute is written in aspic.
I suspect reports will been written until the end of time on this subject and will always be shouted down. Our society is run on religion which is always more powerful than science.

50. Chaise Guevara

@ 49 MoCO

“Our society is run on religion which is always more powerful than science.”

Although I await with interest religion’s attempts to walk on the moon.

51. the a&e charge nurse

[49] our society is run by the daily mail nowadays – and t’fail has made it’s position known vis-a-vis ‘liberals’ and drugs
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2193466/The-day-Britain-lost-war-drugs-The-liberals-left-devastating-legacy.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

““But can you point me to an authoritarian statute law that has been repealed recently or any Government action that has relinquished control?”

Theresa May’s decision on extradiction yesterday transfering decisions to the courts.

@36, Chaise Guevara, it is too late to do eradicate alcohol and gambling in Western culture. It is not too late to do anything about drugs, prostitution or pornography, each of which is far less prevalent than its noisy, and obviously very well-funded, lobby would have us believe.

Perhaps the fact that the next Prime Minister was anything but one of the cool kids at school or university might have the necessary effect? The Labour Movement was of course founded by people who wanted to do these things. Its takeover at the top by the people who took the opposite view was part and parcel of the wider coup within it, and then within the country at large, by the 1970s New Left.

Like the sociologically indistinguishable 1980s New Right, that also, among other things, wanted to abolish the age of consent…

54. Chaise Guevara

@ 53 David Lindsay

I’m not sure whether gambling is less pervasive than porn. But you’ve said why you think doing this would be possible, not why doing it is right.

And you haven’t defended your policy of wrecking people’s lives “for their own good”.

You did, however, have the time to wander off at a tangent.

By way of providing more information regarding the question Septicisle asked in the article, here is part of what Nick Clegg told me when I interviewed him and asked him about drugs policy last month:

“…there are an increasing number of bodies who are revisiting this debate in the round. So for instance the Home Affairs Select Committee has been looking at this now for a long time and I think is due to report in December. I will be reading that very, very closely indeed. If a cross-party select committee revisits some of these issues and urges us to open them up as a government, I think the onus is on us, not them to explain why we shouldn’t. Because every time people look at this issue on a cross-party basis in a considered fashion, it seems to me over several years now including in the committee that David Cameron once sat, actually the advice is for radical action towards a more evidence based approach. I will look out for what the HASC has with quite an open mind.”

Full interview accessible here: http://markreckons.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/interview-with-nick-clegg-part-one.html

Mr Cameron in apparently happier times.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5RLNdWQPps

” each of which is far less prevalent than its noisy, and obviously very well-funded, lobby would have us believe”

If you seriously believe there is a noisy and well funded lobby (and well funded lobbies tend to be rather quiet actually) for legalising hard drugs then you are seriously deluded.

I’d love to know who is well funding this well funded lobby. Surely drug dealers are happy with the status quo? Surely prostitutes are unlikely to be able to spare the money? And Richard Desmond, the UK’s richest pornographer, usually supports the Tories doesn’t he?

If I was a drug baron, I would make certain that the DEA was very well funded. They are good for business, because I would only have to pay bribes to people I subsequently own. Ditto moralisers…

@ 7 Redfish

“There is one question that is never answered or even asked…
What difference to consuption would legalising drugs actually make”

Disregarding for the minute that prohibition is contrary to liberty, and also Chaise Guevara’s valid objection that this is difficult to measure, this is still the wrong question. What should be considered is what will be the difference to harmful consumption and what will be the difference to beneficial consumption. Almost always in these discussions the latter is never considered, and all consumption is considered to be harmful. This is absurd, even under prohibition many people take drugs, with little harm and gain much enjoyment from them, myself included. This is a good thing. It seems plausible to me if drugs are legalised, more people will use drugs positively, yet if this happens you can guarantee that people will bleat on about drug consumption rising, and not questioning whether this is a bad thing.

That doesn’t really follow. Not all drugs are produced by evil cartels. Your position is akin to deciding that you don’t like battery farming, so you’re not going to eat chicken even when it’s organically raised.

And in the illegal chicken trade, how would I know which chickens were battery farmed and which were organically raised?

62. Chaise Guevara

“And in the illegal chicken trade, how would I know which chickens were battery farmed and which were organically raised?”

Fair question. In terms of drugs, there’s a couple of ways. Firstly, you could be growing them yourself (I think this only really applies to dope and magic mushrooms). Secondly, different drugs are sourced from different places. If you’re taking shrooms, they’re probably grown in a flat in the UK (or even picked from a forest: free range!). If you’re taking cocaine, on the other hand, it’s probably passed through bloody hands at some point.

Anyone want to have a go at defending the actions of the state here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/oct/18/couple-kenyan-village-cannabis-factory

@ 63 Planeshift

The moralisers will probably chant hallelujah praise The Lord, as they force that kid to pay for the life saving surgery and confiscate (steal) all the computer equipment & other infrastructure that money helped pay for…

65. Chaise Guevara

@ 63 Planeshift

Weeell… I can defend the state to the extent that the existing law should generally be enforced, rather than letting people off because they’re “good people”. But I won’t defend the law that they were prosecuted under, and I’ll say that three years’ jail seems rather OTT given the circumstances.


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  1. Sam Simon-Norris

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