A legal acquaintance and I were discussing drugs the other day. He is a bit of a lad in this respect, someone who indulges in the occasional line as well as the occasional joint.
He is, to all intents and purposes, an upstanding and well-adjusted member of society, erudite and good company. He does drugs when he can get some “good stuff”. He doesn’t do drugs when he can’t. I have also met some drug users who I considered to be on their way to a downward spiral. And I’ve seen the shaking, gaunt, pale addicts who would probably find death a blessed relief from their tortured existence.
So, like many other things in life, drugs can be a good thing for those who can handle them and a terrible burden for those who can’t. But the same can be said of drink, and I’m sure I’m not the only one here who enjoys a glass of wine from time to time, am I?
At this point, it’s entirely expected to hear the cry: “Ah, but drugs are illegal!” Well, they never used to be. You used to be able to buy it from a pharmacist. And drink was made illegal in the USA and merely succeeded in making 90% of the population criminals. It did absolutely nothing to stop people drinking.
So, even though I have no interest in drugs, having never even puffed on a joint (although I did come close once, but the young lady who was smoking it wouldn’t share it with me!) I firmly believe that it is no business of the government to tell people what they can do to themselves.
As a consequence, I was interested to discover an organisation that professed to have a way to legalise drugs in a way that everybody would win.
I have a suggestion for this myself: the government should fully decriminalise drugs and tax them at the same sort of rate as cigarettes* (although I’d lower the tax on cigarettes to reflect the new income source.) This kind of taxation is known as a “Pigou Tax”, where the thing being taxed has an externality, or external effect that is not just upon the user. So, drugs can lead to crime or addiction which requires either treatment or some other handling, so users of drugs should be taxed to pay for these side effects.
However, this is apparently not acceptable to the “Transform Drug Policy” Forum. Ostensibly a pragmatic and sensible way of convincing the government to do what I have suggested, it is in fact another thinly-veiled group of puritan, arrogant bullies and prodnoses who are, in fact, suggesting nothing more than legalising drugs so that the process of “social denormalisation” can be used on drugs to make them socially unacceptable, as this is, in their opinion, the best way of dealing with the “awful consequences” of drug use.
If you don’t know how social denormalisation works, look at cigarettes: once considered perfectly normal, we went from smoke wherever you want to warning labels on packets to non-smoking coaches on trains and smoking rooms in buildings to no smoking in public buildings to no smoking within 10 yards of a public buildings entrance to no smoking in your car to no smoking anywhere a child might be and so on and so on. Drink is in the startup phase of this process and the groundwork is being laid for “healthy food only”.
Soon, we will all “live” beige lives, existing on seeds and nuts and drinking only water, upon pain of being accused of having a good time.
These people all depend on having some moral high ground, which is why we are constantly drip fed a steady diet of the awful consequences of drugs and the “successes” of the drug war. But the truth of the matter is that we can’t win the drugs war. And even if we could win it, we shouldn’t be fighting it.
The state has no business telling you what you can and can’t do with your own body in the privacy of your own home. And unelected, sanctimonious puritans like the Transform Drug Policy Forum have no business either.
*Cigarettes are a classic example of a Pigou Tax taken too far, which is why the NHS moans about smoking costing them £5 billion per annum, but the puritans never mention the £10.5 billion raised from cigarette taxes every year. Cigarette smokers are a nett contributor to the NHS, and we should be grateful for their habit, not vilify them for it. The fact that our high tobacco prices justify another illegal trade of smuggling cigarettes, even from other EU countries, just shows that these taxes are too high.