« Home | The continuing sorry saga in Libya. » | Links dump. » | How can someone so right also be so wrong? » | RIP Gil Scott-Heron. » | Hello it's us again. » | Trim and hiatus. » | A new starting point on injunctions. » | The travails of Ken Clarke. » | Calamity Clegg and House of Lords reform. » | The depressing adventures of Melanie Phillips, pt 94. » 

Thursday, June 02, 2011 

Decriminalisation has to begin somewhere.

Those dreaded words: "celebrities urge". It's an open invitation for mockery, the seeking out of alleged hypocrisy (something this blog would certainly never sink to) and the age-old accusation of the esteemed elite deciding that's what good for them is good for everyone. If those words are enough on their own for the spluttering to begin, then add drugs into the equation and the phlegm* dislodged in the editor's office of the Daily Mail most probably covered the carpet.

There is in fact a time honoured tradition of contemporary figures putting their names to campaigns for the liberalisation of drug laws. Back in 1967, the year of the Redlands bust that saw both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sent to prison, prompting William Rees-Mogg (for it was he) to write his famous editorial in the Times titled "Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?", such luminaries as David Dimbleby and Jonathan Aitken added their signatures to an advert paid for by the Beatles which urged a review of the criminalisation of cannabis. A similar collection of the great (Dame Judi Dench) and the not so good (Sting, Richard Branson) have signed today's campaign by Release calling for the decriminalisation of personal possession of all drugs, heralded by an advert in today's journal of the establishment, the Guardian.

As the celebs and the more noteworthy ex-minister and former police chiefs remind us, 40 years have passed since the Misuse of Drugs Act became law, the same year that saw the Nixon administration begin the "war on drugs", a war which puts the more recent one on terror to shame when it comes in terms of blowback. The wonderful thing about the Misuse of Drugs Act is that it brought in prohibition masquerading as something far more laudable, a harm reduction strategy. It introduced the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the scientific body we've become far more acquainted with over the past few years, its reports having been serially ignored when they've advocated that cannabis and ecstasy remain downgraded or be downgraded, and followed to the letter when they've hastily decided that mephedrone (meow meow to the kids) be criminalised post-haste. Such dispassionate, rational, evidence-based advice to ministers has delivered the tragically hilarious situation in which magic mushrooms and LSD are considered to be as dangerous in terms of harm as crack cocaine and street heroin, as well giving a veneer of respectability to a law that would otherwise be viewed as shockingly illiberal and out of date.

The politicians of course know all of this. Policy on drugs is almost unique in that every single person involved, with the exception of a tiny minority whom link it back to the decline of civilisation which began in the 60s, understands that what they're doing is futile and self-defeating, and as is also increasingly the case, thoroughly hypocritical. Jonathan Aitken at least was never home secretary, yet some of his successors in the Tory party can hardly claim that they all stayed away either from the devil weed or the more thoroughly bourgeois white powder. The austere Jacqui Smith, having oversaw the reclassification of cannabis as Class B despite sampling the odd marijuana cigarette in her youth, justified her actions on the grounds that she had to protect the public, the same collective presumably that is increasingly turning away from the drug.

It's certainly difficult to understand just how they continue to justify their actions to themselves; perhaps this is why once their careers are over so many of those who have previously either had responsibility for drugs policy or even had to enforce the law try to make amends by campaigning or adding their voices to the calls for a change. This doesn't explain however why there has yet to be a politician with the guts to challenge the prohibition orthodoxy whilst still in power. As stifling as the authoritarian tabloid approach is, and as virulent as the low-level campaign for cannabis to reclassified was, the detritus of the status quo is so massive in terms of those criminalised, the offences committed by those addicted to pay for their habit and the time and money spent to tackle the gangs that control the trade that the legalisation and regulation of "soft" drugs, and the decriminalisation of the highly addictive and destructive likes of crack and heroin isn't radical, it's obvious in it's essential necessity.

The obscenity of the situation the drug war has created is epitomised by the border city of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, where 3,075 people were murdered last year in the conflict between the cartels and the police. The murder rate in the city has dropped this year to an average of just 4 deaths a day, down from a high of 11, due only to a massive influx of thousands of federal police. The American thirst for drugs, combined with the refusal to countenance any change in the draconian laws that create the climate in which only organised crime can fill the demand means that the situation can only get worse. What's desperately needed is a politician with the bravery to state in public what so many accept in private: that prohibition has not only failed but exacerbated the problem massively, and that the alternatives have to be given a chance. Quite where such a individual will be found when politics in this country at least is dominated by intellectual pygmies is impossible to tell. Until he or she emerges though we really ought to lay off the sneering: someone with power and influence will eventually take up the mantle currently being seized by the revolutionary likes of Bob Ainsworth and the Countess of Wemyss.

*Yes, I originally spelled it flem. Idiot.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Didn't some politician say, "We know what to do about drugs, we just don't know how to get re-elected after we've done it"?

Sounds familiar. I prefer the Bill Hicks one though: "I loved when Bush came out and said, "We are losing the war against drugs." You know what that implies? There's a war being fought, and the people on drugs are winning it."

Post a Comment


  • This is septicisle


    blogspot stats

     Subscribe in a reader


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates