I use this blog as a soap box to preach (ahem... to talk :-) about subjects that interest me.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Legalise them all

For years I have been of the opinion that we should legalise all drugs, light and heavy.  I don't use any drug and only drink a little, perhaps a beer a week. That wouldn't change if cannabis, narcotics, and what-have-you became available legally.  I just don't understand why the state should prevent people from smoking or injecting what they want.  They do it anyway.  If drugs were legally available, the cost, both in terms of suffering and in terms of dollars, would be significatly reduced.  And the thefts, spreding of diseases, and violence that surround the drug trade would disappear.

What the state should do is ensure that intoxicated people do not endanger other people's lives.  And they are failing on that, because drunks cause many fatal car accidents and street fights.  The issue is not whether somebody is drunk or high on dope.  The issue is whether that person can sit behind a steering wheel or punch somebody on the nose. In this sense, alcohol is far more dangerous than, say, heroine. And yet, nobody (fortunately) is speaking of outlawing alcohol.

Can you imagine how much money would be freed if we stopped preventing people from buying drugs or growing marihuana plants in the backyard?  By legalising drugs, we would undermine most of the trafficking and the associated criminality and would save the lives of those who now die for overdose because they inject badly cut drugs.  And the government could tax drugs as they do now with alcholic beverages.

Obviously, these considerations are not new, and I am sure that somebody will find counter-arguments for any argument I can bring, but we only need to look at history to know what we should do, because humans have not significantly changed since recorded history.  In fact, we only need to go back less than one hundred years.

I am reading the book The History of the Mafia by Nigel Cawthorne, and have just arrived to where he writes about Prohibition and Al Capone.  This is how that chapter begins:

         When the Volstead Act banning the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages was passed in 1919, organized crime in America went mainstream. [...] it is estimated that 75 per cent of the population of the United States became client of bootleggers. It was big business. There had been 16,000 saloons in New York before the Volstead Act. These were replaced by 32,000 'speakeasies' (illegal drinking establishments). Britain's alcohol export to Canada rose six-fold and it was said that more intoxicating liquor was sent to Jamaica and Barbados than the population could possibly drink in a hundred years. During five years of Prohibition, 40 million gallons of wine and beer were seized. In 1925 alone, 173,000 illegal stills were impounded. This did nothing to stem the supply. And with the price of alcohol first doubling and then climbing to ten times what it had been before Prohibition, there was plenty of profit for the bootleggers.

Can you imagine how much effort and money it took to discover and seize millions of gallons of beverages and to close hundreds of thousands of illegal stills?

And it didn't really work.  It only gave to organise crime a new market.

Perhaps not many know that Prohibition, besides in the USA, was tried in several countries (Russia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, to name the most significant). And it didn't work there either. It only helped organised crime.

You know what?  I am optimistic.  I believe that in a decade or two, at least in the western democracies, governments will realise that they have been mistaken in banning drugs.  Cannabis Sativa is a lovely leafy plant and I would love to grow it in my garden.

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