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Legalising Drugs On The Battleground Of Hypocrisy

by Samuel Horti
9 October 2012 13 Comments

The libertarian arguments for legalising drugs make sense, but it's not safety and freedom of will we need to battle against, it's the government's hypocritical stance on alcohol and tobacco...

Channel 4′s recent programming has proved a couple of things. The first is that drugs are undeniably interesting. The second is that the issue of drugs is important to many people (comment pieces on ‘Drugs Live’ were flooding the net last week). The fact that the programme achieved such popularity is a reflection of the general public’s attitude: over the last few years, the calls for legalisation have been getting louder, especially amongst young people, and they’re not just coming from those who like to get off their face every once in a while (or more frequently).

The most convincing argument for drug legalisation is the simplest, and it can be found radiating from the realms of libertarianism. Surely, this argument goes, if a person is to have domain over one thing in life it should be their own body, and this includes having control of the substances that they ingest. It seems only natural that an individual should be the one deciding what goes into their bodies, not the government.

It is a strong argument, and one that does not stand alone. Hauling illegal substances above board would go some way to starving criminals of cash, as they would no longer hold the monopoly on drugs. It would also make matters a lot safer for users: the government could enforce a quality control service to ensure that the product that is distributed to the product is safe for consumption. Taxation on drugs has the potential to raise a lot of money: money that politicians could spend on improving public services (and hopefully not on that decorative statue for their second home).

Don’t think that any of these points have the people who can actually do anything about it convinced. A poll conducted in early September may have revealed that 75% of MPs believe that the UK’s drugs policies are not working, but that doesn’t mean that the government is anywhere near ready to change it’s mind. In the same poll, only around 30% of MPs went as far as saying that possession of a small amount of drugs should be decriminalised. Legalisation is a long way off.

 If a person is to have domain over one thing in life it should be their own body, and this includes having control of the substances that they ingest.

This is not particularly surprising. After all, there are good arguments against legalisation. Admittedly, most of them rely on the fact that legalisation would increase drug use (a contentious premise), but if this could be shown – through proper studies and stacks of evidence – then the issue would be far from clear cut. Yes, a person should have the right to cause harm to their own body, but not to – as will often happen with drugs – cause harm to others. This harm comes in various forms, from the blatant (violence and aggression caused by high doses of cocaine) to the more subtle (emotional distress for the family of an addict).

Unfortunately, we (meaning anyone who cares about this issue) are all jumping the gun. Because the battleground for this debate has not yet been cleared. It’s still littered with hypocrisy – something that we must look to be rid off before we can get a proper discussion off the ground. This hypocrisy comes from the government’s current laws on alcohol. A lot of us seem to forget that alcohol is an extremely dangerous drug. In fact, a recent study suggested that it is the most dangerous drug available, due in no small part to the plethora of negative impacts it has on our society.

Even if you don’t go that far, it is irrefutable that using and abusing alcohol greatly harms the individual, those immediately surrounding them and our nation at large, and this harm far surpasses any potential danger posed by many illegal drugs (just look at the studies on cannabis and you’ll see what I mean). How is it possible that we have laws that prohibit the use of certain substances and, at the same time, welcome the use of others that are as bad, if not worse, for everyone involved? The answer is that the government does not care for reason – it makes it’s own rules (and ours, unfortunately) based on whimsical, elusive strands of reasoning – strands that twist and turn however they please, thank you very much.

And thus, people on both sides of this perpetually spinning coin realise that they’re simply shooting the breeze when they voice their meticulously constructed thoughts. Those who want legalisation should realise that they’re banging their head against a brick wall. Yes, they are making valid points, but who cares? Not the government! Those opposing legalisation will quickly realise that their arguments, if applied to all drugs, would see the outlawing of alcohol (and probably cigarettes) in a instant. Knowing that there’s no a hope in hell of this happening, they too realise that what they are saying is irrelevant. Their voices, along with everyone else’s, will not be taken seriously when the matter lands in front of someone important.

If we want to engage in a transparent examination of an issue that is considered by many of us as very important – for varying reasons – then we must sweep this hypocrisy aside before we step up to our respective podiums. Before deciding the wording of our laws, our government must by hold all drugs to the same standard to make an outward sign of its belief in reasoned argument; because the current drug laws suggest that they are willing to believe in anything but.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

James 2:01 pm, 9-Oct-2012

Brilliant, sums up the current situation perfectly, those in charge should be forced to read this, although I'm sure it still wouldn't change a thing..

seb 4:36 pm, 9-Oct-2012

I don't think this is a reason in and of itself to leave alcohol legal and all other illegal - but to me one "advantage" that alcohol has over other narcotics is that it can be enjoyed in and of itself not for its drug properties - i.e. you could drink half a glass of the worlds best wine and enjoy the taste, the exclusivity, the match with food and the depth of flavour without getting remotely drunk. I don't think there is any class A that this applies to as they are only consumed for their drug effect.....

buzzinboi 5:20 pm, 9-Oct-2012

I don't see how, logically, the presence of one dangerous substance in society i.e. alcohol is an argument for the introduction of another i.e. drugs. If anything it should be the opposite.

Roy 6:49 pm, 9-Oct-2012

Seb, the same can be said for the huge varieties of weed and hash. So many flavours and tastes to be tried. Not to mention the different highs they can give.

Harry 9:36 pm, 9-Oct-2012

Seb, I'm sure people living in the Andes who enjoy tea made from coca leaves (the raw ingredient for cocaine, a class A drug) could put up a similar argument. The fact is that most people wouldn't bother with wine if it didn't contain alcohol. You can buy alcohol-free wines, but they don't exactly fly off the shelves.

Harry 9:49 pm, 9-Oct-2012

buzzinbol: 'drugs' are already present in our culture. You may not see much direct evidence of this, but that's because of laws which dissuade against public consumption. Anyone who wants a particular drug can easily get it, the law plays little part in discouraging this. But assuming you are right and the law does have a big enough influence; what if alcohol was banned and another, much less dangerous drug, permitted to take its place? Is that acceptable?

Harry 10:04 pm, 9-Oct-2012

Samuel: I agree with what you are saying. I think it's very telling that 75% of MPs think that our drug laws are not working, but so few are in favour of changing them! The reason is of course that they fear a backlash at the ballot box The general public aren't quite there when it comes to drug policy reform. I would say this is partly due to ignorance and partly due to propaganda and myths put out by tabloid newspapers, for example (which MPs encourage in order to appear to be 'tough on drugs'). The tide is turning though - internet is a wonderful tool for spreading the truth.

Samuel 11:46 pm, 9-Oct-2012

@Harry, the tide is definitely turning. I'd be surprised if cannabis were not completely legal in 5 years. The fact that it isn't is so outrageously hypocritical that it's not even funny.

Matt 12:00 am, 10-Oct-2012

The UK is signed up to international treaties that obligate it to prohibit drugs. This was largely due to pressure from the US in the late 60s - pressure that continues to this day. Many recorded instances also of spooks using drug-running to fund other nefarious activities without oversight - the Iran Contra scandal being one of the most famous. So perhaps there is at least one very rational reason why certain powerful interests like to keep the status quo.

frank cooper 9:07 am, 10-Oct-2012

I have worked eith recovering addicts znd young people who use drugs for 17 years. The current law does not stop many people taking drugs but none the less i think that it is a mistake to think that the policies are not working. There is no magical policy that will remove the problems associated with drugs. All we can do is attrmpt to manage them. I dont like gangsters controlling ghe drugs trade but I dont want Glaxo SmithKlein or the big tobacco companies to get their hands on them. Just relax the laws for personal posession and prescribe drugs to those that are addicted. Not replacdment drugs

Harry 7:16 pm, 10-Oct-2012

Samuel: I've been forecasting the end of the decade. But it isn't any drug that will be legalised - drugs don't have a legal status. What will be legalised is what people do with drugs, e.g. possession, production. See for why it's an important distinction,

Harry 7:32 pm, 10-Oct-2012

Matt: UN conventions aren't cast in stone, and there is pressure to change them, e.g.:- It won't happen of course until the US is ready.

Harry 7:42 pm, 10-Oct-2012

Frank: I agree there is no magic bullet to deal with drug addiction and the problems caused by drug misuse. However I would give 2 examples of where a more tolerant approach has worked:- 1) Portugal decriminalised all personal drug possession in 2001 and as a result have seen a reduction in addiction and harm 2) the UK has seen a huge drop in the number of cigarette smokers in recent decades, all done through education and persuasion and without the threat of sending consumers to jail.

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