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The Problem With the Problem With Drugs

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and I stumble upon an article about a recent interview with Professor Green. Now I may not always have time for Professor Green’s music, despite being his namesake (no relation), but he does have a few good tunes. However, what I do have a lot of time for is the things he says. His documentaries on mental health and cannabis were informative and incredibly genuine. It is the subject of the latter that I wish to discuss today.

In this article Professor Green stated, “I don’t believe in prohibition for anything” and, yet again, I have a lot of time for this. Now I could throw facts and figures all day and I’m sure someone could shoot all of those down with some of their own. I want to look past this traditional assessment of drugs and talk about the key principles behind all of this.

I believe we cannot continue to criminalize drug use for two main reasons. Firstly, I believe that it is immoral and secondly, I just don’t think it works.

For this first argument, riddle me this: who is the victim in the crime of possession of drugs? As long as the intended use of the drug is for personal use I do not see how anyone is a victim. The drug user will enter the act of taking drugs on their own accord. They should therefore take responsibility for what events occur under the influence, whether they then continue to commit a crime or suffer an injury or overdose. What I don’t think should happen to them, however, is getting criminalized for suffering an injury or overdose, especially when it was accidental. Sure, if they commit a crime, then throw the book at someone, they are at fault. But other than that, it is no different than someone being responsible for injuring themselves doing an extreme sport. For this reason alone, I find it hard to grasp why we should continue to make the possession of drugs for personal use a crime.

However, I still very much see the victim in the sale of drugs, especially dodgy and hard drugs, regardless if they then take the drug voluntarily. There exists high levels of misinformation and drug dealers often prey on the vulnerable and the addicted. I do have two exceptions to this problem, though, for cannabis and magic mushrooms, on the basis that it results in far less damage than many other drugs (again I’m not going to delve deep in here as there is already tons of research on the negative and positive effects of these drugs. You can decide for yourself whether you agree with me here or not). In the case of hard drugs, I therefore believe that decriminalization is the best option. This would mean that, while the possession of drugs for personal use is now legal, the act of selling it remains illegal (except for cannabis and mushrooms).

The second reason that I believe drugs shouldn’t be illegal is that it just doesn’t keep us any safer. You only have to go to a university club night to see that people still regularly do all sorts of drugs, and this is only a small portion of people that take drugs. Making drugs illegal and ostracizing people for continuing to do them is just a way of passing blame becuase of a lack of an effective system in place. You don’t just shove your kid on a bike, put him in a helmet, and then have your excuse for the hospital as, “Well I put a helmet on him and told him not to fall off, so I guess that’s all I can do.” The point of a parent or guiding figure, which I would argue the government is in some form, is not to ban those in your care from doing things and then criticize them for failing to follow your instructions. It's about educating them in what’s right and wrong, what is safe and not safe, and helping them choose what we think is the right path. Ultimately, however, if they stray we must continue to protect them however we can until, hopefully, they come back. I am in no ways religious, but the story of the prodigal son does make a lot of sense, although the dad clearly needed to step up his parenting game with his other son.

I do understand, however, that free reign sometimes goes too far. Unfortunately, there are still cases where I believe the government should step in, as with a parent, because humans often make mistakes. The primary example I would give here would be situations where someone repeatedly puts themselves and others in danger and should receive court ordered rehab for it. Furthermore, laws such as not driving or using heavy equipment while under the influence are still very much applicable.

Ultimately, I don’t see this issue as a black and white argument where the numbers either stack one way or another. The legalization of cannabis has been proven to work in many places now, and I feel this clearly shows that the argument is an emotive one and a large grey area as we continue to accept these places as civilized in the western world. I therefore don’t think a government should be able to put a strict blanket ban on this grey area, but instead, must help guide the individual through this by providing information and a safe means for drug use whether bought legally from dispensaries, or illegally from the black market. To ensure this, I would call for having stations set up at every club, festival or anywhere where people regularly consume alcohol and drugs to test the quality and purity without fear of prosecution and confiscation. We should give them advice on how to take it safely and even monitor them if we must. If people wish to give up their drugs having heard the harsh realities, then that’s even better. All of this could be paid for from the taxation of the legal drugs and the savings from lower law enforcement requirements, specifically with drug teams. Can we really put a price on saving innocent people's lives? The only downside I see is all those poor sniffer dogs losing a job…

I can see the argument that we shouldn’t be encouraging drug use and that we shouldn’t normalize it. I can even see the extreme argument that we shouldn’t have to spend tax payer’s money on resuscitating drug users who know they are doing something dangerous and, often, irresponsible. But we all do things irresponsible and dangerous on the regular. Every time you get in a car you may not come out of it alive through no fault of your own. The car may be faulty, someone else on the road may be the cause or there may be a distraction within the car. But ultimately, we trust the government to regulate speed limits, ensure that people have insurance and a license and check that the cars are safe to drive both before they leave the factory and also with MOTs. I know this isn’t always 100 percent effective and there may still be some dodgy laws out there, but it is infinitely more practical and responsible than just banning cars and criminalizing anyone who just drives it around private land.

So, let us not just have a problem with drugs because we think it lets us off the hook. Let us be responsible and ensure that people are free to live their lives with all the information they need at their disposal to stay safe and make their own decisions.

Thank you for reading. I am hoping to post a lot more on here, including a series about how I think my political and social beliefs have developed and where that leaves me in our current political landscape. So do check in with me again.