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How Decriminalisation Could Solve The Drugs Problem

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768 words
Legal Issues

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This week saw both Tony Blair and his Scottish counterpart Donald Dewar embroil themselves more deeply than ever in a fight that they can never win ' the war on drugs. In today's relatively peaceful and prosperous society, drugs are believed by many to be the epitome of evil. They are the forbidden fruit, created to entrap young minds and cast them forever into an underworld inhabited by faceless demons whose only pleasure in life lies dissolved inside a hypodermic needle.
This is certainly the propaganda that is presented to us by the flag-waving generals whose job it to lead us into battle against the evil forces of drugs. However, I have often wondered what it really is about these innocuous chemical creations that has instilled such terror in governments around the world that in many countries a person can have their life coldly and legally taken away, simply for distributing them?
Is it because of their power to warp the human mind and run amok with the senses upon which we so desperately rely? No. Our world is inescapably full of narcotics, yet many of them, including powerful and dangerous ones such as alcohol and tobacco, are happily tolerated by society. The nutmeg in your kitchen cupboard can have narcotic effects if smoked (and, used in this way, it can also give you cancer), yet few people have cause to think of this when they sprinkle it into their cakes and biscuits. Chocolate contains an addictive chemical called PEA, which stimulates our brains in the same way that Ecstasy does. Overdosing on chocolate can contribute to heart disease, the single biggest killer in this country today, but far from fearing the addictive properties of the humble Dairy Milk, we laugh and joke about them on Christmas cards and coffee cups. And coffee itself contains a strong stimulant, caffeine, which is also found in tea and Coca-Cola. Even Scotland's 'other national drink', Irn Bru, contains this chemical, although Scotland's original national drink does, of course, contain a much worse drug.
Do we fear drugs because they are dangerous, because they can rub out healthy young minds with a single stroke? The death toll from drugs is certainly tragic ' over a thousand die every year in Britain as a direct result of their dependence on illegal substances. Similar numbers are killed every year by those who recklessly ignore speed limits, yet not even the most paranoid excesses of our legal system would sentence a person to a life behind bars just for driving through a village at more than 30 miles per hour.

In truth we fear drugs because they are a cause of crime, and a symbol of lawlessness. We see them as the currency used by corrupted criminals, masked murderers that execute shady deals in shadowy places during the hours when honest, law abiding citizens are asleep in their beds. To the old lady at the bus stop, they are the demon that drives young teenagers to reject reality and their diminishing hopes of a decent education, in favour of the life of a zombie, depending dopily upon the delights and delusions lurking within a dirty syringe full of dodgy drugs.

For decades Tony Blair's predecessors have attempted to crack down on drug dealers and their antisocial activities in the way that they would with any other common crime. Governments throw ludicrous amounts of money and resources into policing the problem, and locking up those responsible. This approach has failed miserably. So, as drug use continues to rise inexorably, and the average age at which impressionable children take that first precious puff falls with equally alarming rapidity, perhaps it is time that society accepted one very simple solution to the drugs problem: decriminalisation.

This would not, of course, take away the drugs. But it would take away the drugs problem. There is a difference, a difference that has been fatally missed by Tony Blair and his moralising ministers. If drugs were legal, prices would come down, the problems caused by unregulated doses and chemical contaminants could be eliminated, and organised crime would be deprived of its major source of income. If drugs could be openly sold at sensible prices, users would be able to fund the habit without having to steal handbags from old ladies and use the contents to finance the empires of amoral foreign drug barons. Our government is almost proud to announce that half of all burglaries are committed by drug addicts (a total of '4 billion worth of crime annually), since this shocking statistic ...

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