One fortieth birthday celebration that has garnered very little media attention this week is that for the 1971 Misuse Of Drugs Act (as subsequently amended), the law that underpins the so-called “War On Drugs”, and which represented the replacement of a relatively liberal policy with a distinctly illiberal one, heavily influenced by the USA.
And, as I’ve pointed out many times (back story HERE and HERE), the “War On Drugs” is utterly ineffective, takes no more than 1% of illegal drugs off the streets, needlessly criminalises tens of thousands of users, while all the time enriching organised criminality, and reinforcing its hold on a trade for which the public at large has to pay, in policing, court and prison costs.
So today’s open letter to Young Dave, signed by many slebs and artists, and also lawyers and politicians – plus three former chief constables – calling for decriminalisation of possession of all drugs, is a welcome step in placing the issue back in public view. No-one can seriously dispute the key assertion that current policy “is costly for taxpayers and damaging for communities”.
Sadly, the official response from the Home Office was all too predictable: “We have no intention of liberalising our drugs laws” said a spokesman. And this view will enjoy significant support in the highest selling part of the print media, which has as one ignored the story: no mention thus far in the Super Soaraway Currant Bun, Daily Mail or Daily Express (but fear not, there’s plenty of screaming Europhobia).
At least the Maily Telegraph has grudgingly relayed the news, although not as prominently as the Guardian or Independent. Does this matter? Well, yes it does, because only when those scrabbling around on the dunghill that is Grubstreet cease their routine howling down of debate (I considered a typical contribution HERE) can the matter be debated in a mature and rational manner.
In the meantime, taxpayers’ money will continue to be sprayed up the wall in pursuit of a policy which all concerned must know has failed utterly. The scale of the problem, one might think, would have the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) on the case in short order, but that thought would be misplaced. The TPA is more interested in local Government job titles and how many bins are used for refuse collection.
Plus, the TPA needs to get its dubiously sourced copy into those same papers whose agenda dictates the debate on drugs is shouted down at every opportunity. Opportunism trumps principle across the political spectrum. It was ever thus.Who’s to say the Misuse Of Drugs Act won’t still be around to celebrate its fiftieth?