I don’t think there are many more contentious issue today in the UK than drugs and their usage. Note I didn’t say ‘MIS-usage’ or ‘abuse’ as many articles in the Media do when referring to drugs, simply because those are loaded terms and give anything but an impartial arena to discuss the issue sensibly and dispassionately.
But it’s not really journalists’ fault – apart from a fear of thinking on their own and automatically backing the status quo – that discussions concerning narcotics are so one-sided and irrational you’d be forgiven for thinking the main players (I.E. representatives of the Government) are all high on something.
The term ‘drug’ is so politically-charged and distorted with pre-existing socially-constructed connotations that it is nigh on impossible to give drug policy a fair debate. Criticise existing drug policy and you find yourself condemned by MPS, support groups, newspapers and the families of victims that they have in their contact books.
In fact, there are only two ways not to come under fire when discussing drugs. One, agree with the current legislation or two, say it could be more draconian still.
Is that in any way fair? Is that how we in a so-called democracy think debate is to be conducted: With A Priori assumptions so canon that ‘Thou Shalt Not Roll Blunts’ is to be included in the revised edition of the 10 Commandments?
Imagine any other issue being so heavily weighed against – in the 21st century I must add, because in Man’s torturous history there are countless examples of such partisan ways of thinking – slavery being one; evolution another.
But that’s the way things are at the moment and the latest example is the vilification of a senior adviser to the Government on the thorny issue of ecstasy and re-classification (don’t wait for the polity’s findings as I can tell you now nothing will happen regards re-classification, except perhaps a boosting to a newly-created class A+).
Poor Professor David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), is being attacked for daring to say something that isn’t on the party line: That taking ecstasy is inherently no more dangerous than riding a horse.
His comments aren’t pre-formed as he’s a scientist and is just going on research to formulate them. He has no vested interests in promoting drug taking but unfortunately he failed to remember that whatever the evidence drugs are WRONG, both morally and criminally.
However, it does make me wonder why drugs are so wrong when the health risks can be no greater than other social activities as long as the user has the right education on how to handle them and access to an unadulterated source (free of the muck drug-pushers routinely put in them to save resources and maximise profit).
How can the Government justify what they say about drugs? It might be risky taking a pill when you don’t know where it’s come from or how to use it safely, but then again it’s just as risky riding a horse when the saddle has been bought black-market and you’ve been given no riding lessons beforehand. Yet you don’t see police forces swooping down on dodgy stables even if there are such things.
Why? Because it’s not recognised as criminal. At best you can hope for the redress of tort law as it’s a case of a failure on an individual’s part to another individual, not a crime against the state as a whole.
Then again an individual smoking pot is now seen as a criminal offence so who knows what constitutes what these days. How people choosing to do something to themselves in the comfort of their own homes is ‘criminal’ is beyond me. It reminds me of a less enlightened time when sucicide was seen as a crime, punishable by death (oh, the irony).
It all boils down to what right the Government has to intrude into our privacy on matters of morality. Because any other argument for keeping (most) drugs illicit just falls flat.
They’re bad for your health! Legalise them and make sure you only supply through official channels so the recipient gets only the safest types. Do it prescription-only and guarantee to know exactly who’s doing what and how it’s affecting them.
Drugs sold on the black market fund crime! Legalise and you remove the incentive for organised crime to get involved. They only make huge profits because of the age-old economic law of ‘supply and demand’. Instead the money could go back into the Government’s pot and be spent on worthy things such as health and education.
They’re bad… because they are! Hmm, many societies used drugs as ways to expand consciousness and/or chill out. Why must a right to freedom of thought naturally exclude a right to mode of thinking. And IF it should (just because) then I expect tea, coffee, nicotine, alcohol, exercise and sex to be banned swiftly as they change the brain chemistry – and therefore our perceptions – as well.
I’m not asking for everything to be legalised. I’m not even asking for cannabis to be stocked at my local off-licence. All I want is the right to be treated as an adult, a voter with a stake in the state and a say in it’s running, and a moral animal who ISN’T automatically a felon is he chooses once in a while to forsake a pint and have a joint instead.
(*N.B. ‘Frank’ is a drugs-awareness organisation)