To tell you the truth I am just about sick of the drugs debate, about as sick as I am of the drugs culture. There is nothing in my experience to be said for drugs and one hell of a lot to be said against them. And if the pursuit of happiness or liberty means society resorting to the soma of narcotics, it’s not worth it.
I would love to put my head in the sand every time the legalisation brigade stage another of their carefully managed media campaigns like the one stimulated by the case of Billy Caldwell. I can’t.
I can’t ignore the lies we’ve been sold: first, that legalisation of drugs policy is inevitable; second, that the drugs ‘war’ has been lost and third, that there’s no evidence on balance of it not being against the public good.
That sickens me even more.
As I reviewed the names of the establishment drugs advocates who’d put pen to paper last week, what struck me was how like Brexit this all was. The elite telling the small folk what they should think.
A Westminster political and media establishment pro-drug elite – from the think tanks (the IEA and the Adam Smith Institute) to the politicians (namely William Hague, Nick Clegg, and Vince Cable) to the career commentators (Simon Jenkins, Matthew Parris and Ian Birrell) – all opining on policy that benefits their interests, but whose disastrous impact will not be on them but ordinary people. Those who oppose legalisation or don’t know still significantly outnumber those such as Parris and Co who are for it.
The pro-drugs elite like to assume our drug control laws are not working. Indeed they are not when police choose not to apply them or, worse, create their own local drugs green-light zones. Yet the continued threat of criminal sanctions and social stigma that goes with illegality has seen use drop significantly on a decade ago.
How many people know that in the last year only one in 12 adults tried a drug at least once? That’s compared with the 60 per cent who drank.
What may be a normal activity in media circles and the metrosexual world of risk they inhabit (and may also be a gangland activity), is not a run-of-the-mill activity for ordinary people.
That’s why so far the bulk of schoolchildren are still protected from the drug culture. Only 15 per cent of eleven-plus pupils have ever taken drugs; only 10 per cent once or more than once in the last year and only 6 per cent in the last month. Too many, I know. And a disproportionate number of them, sadly, are in so-called ‘care’.
The idea that figure could be contained at this level under a liberalised regime of either formal decriminalisation or with the normalisation that comes with a legalised market is one for cloud cuckoo land.
In the US, where the recreational use of cannabis is legal in nine States and medipot in 29, what do we see but significantly higher drug use, plus higher intensity of higher THC cannabis use? If you don’t believe me sound out either Professor Humphreys, a Director for Mental Health Policy in the Dept of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University or Professor John Kelly, Harvard University’s first Professor in addiction medicine whose joint presentation I attended at the House of Commons yesterday.
Of 12th graders across the US, 45 per cent have used marijuana at least once, 23 per cent in the last month. Of over-18 adults, 20 per cent used drugs in the last year.
Where drug use has been liberalised and normalised in the States we see higher rates of toxicity, intoxication and addiction. Given the concomitant drop in the price of the legalised product, this hardly comes as a surprise.
If this is not a high-risk public health and crime strategy, I am not sure what is.
But this is not how Matthew Parris sees it. Having openly admitted to the influence of extreme pro-drugs lobbyists; after rehearsing the pros and cons of legalisation (regulating more, testing more, and labelling more in the optimistic hope of eliminating skunk from the market and any collateral to be paid for by the tax fruits forthcoming) Parris arrives at his considered conclusion.
‘What tips the balance for me, and tips it in favour of legalisation, is individual liberty. I don’t see liberty as a right that trumps all other claims. There exists such a thing as public morality and the general good. Less tangible, however, is the idea that we should see ourselves as masters of our own destiny. This is a national idea – a culture, really – with incalculable benefits.
‘Unpersuaded that anyone knows whether the legalisation of cannabis would add to or detract from the greatest good of the greatest number, I come back to individual liberty. Let’s each of us choose our own path to the everlasting bonfire.’
And if we left people to take all the consequences of their own actions, hey, why not? But we don’t. No one with any investment in society does that. It is a libertarian lie that we do.
Anyone who share Parris’s infantile notion of liberty should also reflect on Theodore Dalrymple’s critique of it. Written more than twenty years ago, what he writes still applies:
Human affairs cannot be decided by an appeal to an infallible rule, expressible in a few words, whose simple application can decide all cases, including whether drugs should be freely available to the entire adult population. Philosophical fundamentalism is not preferable to the religious variety; and because the desiderata of human life are many, and often in conflict with one another, mere philosophical inconsistency in policy – such as permitting the consumption of alcohol while outlawing cocaine – is not a sufficient argument against that policy. We all value freedom, and we all value order; sometimes we sacrifice freedom for order, and sometimes order for freedom. But once a prohibition has been removed, it is hard to restore, even when the newfound freedom proves to have been ill-conceived and socially disastrous.
Freedom from the law and the freedom of neglect already fuels the gang culture that 30,000 British children are reported to be prey to. What is depriving them of their liberty to prosper is the absence, not the presence, of the criminal law.