Here at UKIP Daily, we enjoy a spirited debate; as such we present this article as a counter-argument to Mr. Bav’s piece “Prisons – Crime Statistics – Drugs” found here.
The “War on Drugs” is not working. Is decriminalisation part of the solution to the drugs problem?
The first sentence is a “straw man” argument. And the second sentence begs the question – if decriminalisation is only part of the “solution” why not try all the other parts first?
A straw man argument is a debating trick where one side constructs a parody of the other side’s argument to make it appear that it lacks substance and can be brushed aside like a straw man. Whether inadvertently or intentionally provocative, be aware that the debate question has straw man and begging-the-question biases.
We are not at war with drugs. We may use the police to counteract drug dealers for example, but that is no different to actions against people-traffickers or dealers in counterfeit goods. Occasionally the armed services are involved, but that is overseas where we have been invited to do so, and hardly amounts to a war.
So, how can this non-existent “war” be “not working”? All drugs, including tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, medicines and the “Drugs” referred to in this debate are controlled by some laws, even if only to maintain wholesomeness – so that you can rely on the packet of tea you buy from Tesco’s being pure and drinkable.
Shops and food producers can be, and are, prosecuted for violating these laws. No one seriously suggests these laws are “not working” when this happens. No one seriously suggests that such laws should be removed.
The “Drugs” discussed in this debate are controlled by the “Misuse of Drugs Act” 1971, which calls them “controlled drugs”, and divides them into classes: Class A is the most dangerous, like heroin; Class B – like amphetamines; Class C – like Diazepam (Valium). Many of these drugs are also controlled by the Medicines Act 1968.
It is clear that even if the Misuse of Drugs Act were to be repealed other laws would of necessity still control these powerful drugs. In the strict sense of the law decriminalisation is not possible unless a complete free-for-all is envisaged for all drugs and medicines, with no controls, no prohibitions, and no protection for the public.
It is false to claim the libertarian card for hard drug use. Illegal drugs like ecstasy can lead to death after one dose. All the hard drugs lead to the inability to function properly in society, even if initially hidden, and most lead to addiction. Please see the available handout with a medical discussion by a registered GP.
The consequences for colleagues, family, friends, victims of drug-users’ crimes, and the taxpayer are extensive and severe. Even cannabis causes long term medical problems like psychosis, though allowing the user to function relatively normally until that point.
Hard drug use is destructive. In essence illegal drug users have given up on our civilisation, temporarily or permanently. Now you may argue from the libertarian perspective that that is their prerogative. There is a temptation to agree. Except it is the rest of us who keep our civilisation going which ultimately facilitates, and funds, the drug users’ destructive habits.
Society has changed dramatically since the 1960s. Heroin may have been restricted then to a few rich “Bohemians” (a quaint concept nowadays), but its use would have expanded, in the more open society then developing in the 1960s, without prohibition.
There is another problem with the term “decriminalisation” – different people mean different things by it.
Suppose hard drugs are legalised: who supplies them? and who pays? Is that legalised and for sale over the counter, like tobacco? Or de-criminalised, but their supply still restricted like most medicinal drugs? If the second is the route, then the user would presumably have to go along to his/her GP. And that means the NHS (ie the taxpayer) pays directly for the habit, as well as for the consequences.
Otherwise it will be the user paying, as now. Yet because many persistent users become unable to hold down a job properly, crime would remain a part of their death cycle just as it is today.
In either option (NHS pays, or user pays), after these hard drugs were “legalised”, and supplied by reputable pharmacological firms, their cost would be higher than blackmarket supplies. That is because the reputable firms have to cover costs of research, development, traceability, purity, worker protection, pay, pensions, taxes, etc.
Whichever route is chosen these drugs will be more freely available so their use will increase. Moreover, unless all these drugs are supplied freely and for “free” on the NHS, the “illegal” supplies will continue – there’s enough counterfeiting of legitimate branded goods already, including medicines, to show that.
The reason that hard drugs were made illegal is that their use not only damages the user but has a significant impact on the rest of society. Drug misuse is not a victimless pastime. Even if you don’t care about the consequences to the user, there are massive effects on family, friends, and neighbours. There is the consequent crime unless the taxpayer pays directly for the drugs. Plus the NHS will end up picking up the pieces afterwards anyway, at increased cost to us – the tax-payer.
Decriminalisation is not the answer.