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Thursday 30 October 2014

Drug Laws Don’t Work – Official

[Update at end of post]

Drugs. One word that is enough to have the authoritarian part of the press in a collective froth at the mouth. If the subject must be debated, it has to be concluded that we must be tough on them. There must be tough penalties. Lots of people must go to prison and suffer tough sentences. There is a War On Drugs, and no slacking or deviation is to be permitted.
But, as Captain Blackadder might have observed, there was only one thing wrong with this idea – it was bollocks. The War On Drugs was long ago lost; the supplies get through, the supply network covers the whole of the country, and all that has been achieved is the enrichment of organised criminality and untold misery for many of the users, as we refuse to treat drugs as a health issue.

One of the first subjects in which Zelo Street majored back in 2009 was the failure of the War On Drugs, and you can read a series of posts on this HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE. What was covered then is true still: all that the tough rhetoric and criminalisation has done is to increase the number of addicts, and countries that have moved to make drug use a health issue have seen significant improvements.

So when a new report was released yesterday into the effects of current drugs policy, which “represents the first official recognition since the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act that there is no direct link between being ‘tough on drugs’ and tackling the problem”, and was signed off by Home Secretary Theresa May, the authoritarian side of the press was ready to twist the story to suit its agenda.
Lisbon: no scene of drug-ravaged desolation

Despite the report noting “Trend data from Portugal shows how levels of drug use changed in the years following decriminalisation in 2001. Although levels of drug use rose between 2001 and 2007, use of drugs has since fallen to below 2001 levels. It is clear that there has not been a lasting and significant increase in drug use in Portugal since 2001”, the Daily Mail is having none of that.

The obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre has instead dismissed the study as a “Lib Dem Report”: readers are told “Report was led by Liberal Democrat home office minister Norman Baker” and that it was “spearheaded by Liberal Democrat home office minister Norman Baker”. The World Health Organisation is cited. It hasn’t produced a report for over two years.

But public opinion, and much of the rest of the Fourth Estate, is showing that the Mail is out of step, and out of time: even the Murdoch Sun is saying today that “We can't just carry on with the status quo. Something has to change”. It is time that the two largest mainstream parties joined the debate, rather than leaving it to the Lib Dems and Greens, and demonstrate that UKIP doesn’t have a clue on the issue.

This war is lost; we must face reality. Who will give us the leadership we need?

[UPDATE 31 October 1425 hours: right on cue, the Daily Mail has detailed Steve Doughty to produce a hatchet job, which tries to suggest that Portugal has a worse drug problem than suggested by the Government report.

Readers are told "nearly a fifth of 15 and 16-year-olds use drugs – well over twice the number in the years before decriminalisation", but Doughty is being economical with the truth here. This is not a number of regular users, but those who have tried various drugs.

Moreover, the figures used in the report signed off by Theresa May and Norman Baker were for adult usage, so Mail readers are being asked to "look over there".

On top of that, an attempted smear of the official adult Portuguese figures uses Kathy Gyngell in support. She is in favour of attempting to keep currently illegal drugs illegal, and has written extensively to this effect]

1 comment:

SteveB said...

Every now and then you get an example of something where quite possibly everyone is wrong! In this case not only the two sides of this latest argument but mostly those running the "War" they are arguing about.

They've spent decades fighting the wrong people, ie the users and small time dealers(funding habits) who happen to be visible to the voters. And what of the big time producers who are not visible on your streets? Not a lot - how many letters do MPs and Police Commisioners get on that subject? Coupled with the fact that the producers transcend police force boundaries, and the chief constables have spent as much time arguing against anything that smacks of a national police force thus making investigation harder. And it's not only police boundaries, it's crossing national borders so Customs want their cut of the action.

I've a suggestion to please the Greens and the Mail. Give up on the small time stuff, in simple business terms it's not cost effective. Go after the producers.

Only don't pussy foot about. Ask yourself, how much human damage have Al Quaeda actually done in Britain in the last 15 years? And how much the big time drug producers? Governments are quite happy to launch "extra judicial" drone strikes against terror suspects so why not those causing death and misery on a greater scale. Whether in a hut in Afghanistan or by the pool in Marbella - it wouldn't need many examples. A slight tweek to the Terrorism Act to include scale of casualties whatever the reasoning and then we would have a War we might win.

As for why the "War" has always been a shambles, an example from a town not far from Crewe in the 80s'. Drugs Crime featured in the published stats and any noticable numbers always provoked a negative reaction from the politicos and hacks. But there wasn't much visible drugs crime meaning few complaints about it from residents, almost every drugs offence in the stats came from active police investigations. So Chief Super had an idea, stop investigating stuff that hadn't got a complaint on the books. Brilliant, next year the drugs stats came right down and everyone was happy. Obviously this seen led to a rise in activity which became noticable and there were calls for action - at which point he just restarted what he stopped and looked like a genius when everything went back to how it was!!