Imagine this. A queue outside a late night cake shop, full of stoned people discussing the merits of Dorset Apple cake versus double chocolate. Drooling, they see some friendly policemen. Some run like hell for no other reason than paranoia, but the police are not threatened, either inwardly or outwardly.
Contrast this with a bunch of pissheads outside a kebab shop, aggressive from drink and chasing members of the opposite sex - sometimes their sexual partner has gone to new pastures, and they are on the edge of barbarism. The police turn up to deal with a scuffle, one or two more drunks join in and before too long the Territorial Support Unit turns up with gas and batons to break up the thuggery.
One is imaginary, the other is guaranteed to happen on your average Saturday night in most towns in the UK. As an ex stoner (indeed one of those who would have run like hell out of paranoia) and recovered alcoholic I know which group the police would prefer. The mellow happy guys intent on filling their faces with home baked cakes.
Don't get me wrong. Listen here to a podcast I made a few years ago of an interview with a custody sergeant who had to deal with people off their heads with psychosis and mania. In Clive Thomas view it was the worst job he had to do. Yet all that is needed is a better mental health system, with more psychiatrists on duty and places of safety available for the deranged to be sent to. This, instead of being pinned down, naked, by 5 custody workers for 12 hours while waiting for a psychiatrist to do his rounds. Mental Health is the Cinderella Service - first to get cuts, last to get new funding.
A simple argument for the legalisation of narcotics is you can spend trillions of dollars a year less on military and law enforcement, and spend that cash on treatment and rehabilitation. Take £10 billion out of criminal justice and put it in, in significant part, to psychiatry and you have better treatment for the inevitable (but small) increase in those breaking down due to psychoactive substances.
Let's go to a 2002 UK House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee report into the decriminalisation and legalisation of recreational drugs. In regards legalising and regulating, they concluded that
While acknowledging that there may come a day when the balance may tip in favour of legalising and regulating some types of presently illegal drugs, we decline to recommend this drastic step.
The two core arguments were that they felt that 1) more under age kids would get hold of them and 2) no other countries have done it and they don't want to rock the boat. Better for the state to decide and penalise those selling to youngsters than for peer pressure among criminal gangs, wouldn't it? Also, knowing US Federal policy toward countries that consider such things we'd lose our Special Relationship and join Syria and North Korea in the Axis of Evil. I'm only half joking...
Since the report we as a country have done two things - reduced cannabis from a Class B drug to a Class C drug, then after media scare stories and junk science being fed to government politicians, upgraded cannabis from Class C to B.
The upshot is to save on paperwork for arresting a bunch of mellow stoners so they can spend more time dealing with fighting drunks and junkie thieves, the police have started to turn a blind eye to cannabis again. From being legally able to leave the mellow ones alone, so they practically leave stoners alone.
This has been shown in a 2010 Economist article, which quotes Ryan McNeely referring to the state of US marijuana law:
[W]hat I think what we're seeing here is the wrong-headed notion that an appropriate way to express disapproval of a behavior is to simply make it illegal but then wink and nod on enforcement, as if this is some sort of middle ground (this is also the Obama administration position on federal marijuana law)...
With wink and nod enforcement you are letting the big drug dealers run and regulate the market. Most of the issues around drugs is crime. Simply, if Afghanistan was able to legally grow poppies as a cash crop for recreational use, the Taliban would go bust. The Taliban going bust, we save however many trillions of dollars a year being spent on fighting them. Fewer soldiers die. Extreme Islam has a major chunk taken out of its income stream... Though many think God makes the world go round, money actually does! These people 'with God on their side' would if be, if not impotent, marginalised to the point they'd significantly lose their Mojo...
On the streets you would have fewer crack whores (though many prostitutes will sell themselves for drink anyway, so I can't suggest there will be no men or women selling their bodies for some drug). Acquisitive crime takes place, again, for alcohol. Speak to most policemen? They attribute most petty crime to junkies stealing for their next fix. Prescribe the heroin? They get their fix and don't need to steal for it.
In a submission to the 2002 Home Affairs Select Committee report, the drugs charity Transform stated:
In Transform's view prohibition has caused or created many of the problems associated with the use and misuse of drugs...drugs prohibition effectively hands the trade over to organised crime and unregulated dealers. Government abrogates all responsibility for the management of the supply side of the market and chaos prevails.
We have moved away from the use of the word "legalise" because it is interpreted as meaning a free for all. It scares people, particularly politicians and the media and we, as a party, now understand that these are the people we need to influence if we are to advance our cause.
In the next blog I shall look at the practicalities of decriminalisation. The first step of a long war; or as legalisation seems at present, a campaign as doomed to failure and just as controversial as making the UK a Sharia L
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