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Monday 9 July 2012

Mel And Her Class A Mind Messing

[Update at end of post]

Among the usual range of topics raised by the audience on last Thursday’s edition of Question Time was the inevitable discussion on currently illegal drugs. This was perhaps inevitable, given the presence on the panel of John Lydon, and self-confessed user of such substances, Tory MP Louise Mensch, who told that “Class A” drugs had “messed with her mind”.

Still not the quiet and calm voice of reason

This has prompted Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips to crank up her ranting machine to the max, and the result has been obligingly splashed across the Daily Mail, whose legendarily foul mouthed editor has decreed that the Mail’s Kind Of People need to have their resolve against illegal substances suitably stiffened by a regular diet of frighteners.

At least Louise Mensch is brave enough to say drugs messed with her mind, unlike the sneering liberals who still can't face the truth” screams the headline, as Mel once again uses “liberal” in the Stateside pejorative sense, managing not to notice that Ms Mensch, whom she quotes so approvingly, uses the strapline “Conservative means deliver liberal ends” on her Twitter bio.

Mel asserts that Ms Mensch “has been subjected to sneering, scorn and a cascade of spiteful remarks” since the broadcast, but I missed these, as I suspect did most other folk. The rest of the piece tells that “Britain has drifted into ... a spiral of drug harm” and rails against those who would go down the route of decriminalisation, which would have “drug use rocket[ing] skywards”.

At times like this, those like Melanie Phillips might pause to consider the facts of the matter. Before all those drugs were declared to be illegal – in 1971 – there were perhaps a hundred heroin addicts in the UK. They could get their fix, unadulterated, legally. Now there are tens of thousands. That this has come at the same time as the trade has been surrendered to organised criminality is not a coincidence.

Legalisation of use – not, note, supply – does not mean more drug users, and here the experience in Portugal is instructive. Ten years after decriminalisation of use, drug abuse had dropped by half. The right-wing Cato Institute reported that drug use among teenagers fell, as did the rate of new HIV infection caused by dirty needles. The policy had “been a resounding success”.

And this wasn’t just a Conservative conclusion: the Soros backed Open Society Foundations concluded last August that drug decriminalisation in Portugal had worked. The approach “proves that decriminalisation does not increase drug use”. There was no magnet for drug tourists. Yes, some drugs (legal and illegal) do bad things to those that use them. But getting hung up on that is to miss the point.

Melanie Phillips is out of time: she, and the Mail, need to move on.

[UPDATE 1915 hours: a conclusion not significantly at variance to mine has been reached by David Atherton, who, as he is contributing to The Commentator, a right-leaning group blog, is unlikely to be of coincident political view. Yet he has cited much of what I have.

Thus yet another sign that those believing that they can howl down moves to decriminalise drug use are losing the argument across the political spectrum. Sooner or later, Government will act whether the Daily Mail wants it to or not]

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