Why We Need To Legalise All Drugs
Drug prohibition has been a weight holding us down for decades, it is time to make a change.
As the War on Drugs continues to crash and burn, governments, scientists, and individuals are beginning to turn to alternative paradigms of thought. One such strategy that is gaining popularity is the notion of legalising drugs completely – yes, all of them.
Why? Because it works a whole lot better than prohibition. Before you scoff and dismiss this as an absurdity, check out the reasoning and evidence first.
OK, so some of the smartest and most informed minds have gone away to ponder on the problem of drugs use, and come back and put total legalisation on the table. Why? Well, the total legalisation has a few theoretical advantages. Firstly, if history has taught us anything, criminalizing a product that is in high demand does nothing but fuel a black market. Legal ramifications do very little to dissuade people in these situations, and breed an unsafe and unregulated environment where criminal gangs and syndicates run free.
There is no finer example of this than the US prohibition of alcohol, which lasted from 1920 – 1933. Prohibition did nothing to reduce alcohol use, increased the prison population, directly caused a dramatic increase in criminal gang activity, and resulted in a 400% increase in alcohol poisoning related deaths due to poor quality alcohol and a lack of regulation.
There is also the fact that when a substance, such as a drug, is prohibited, its users are treated as criminals rather than those in potential need of help. Now, to say that every drug user needs help is equally wrong; those who enjoy a bit of weed or psychedelics on a regular basis are likely to tell you where you can stick your help, as quite frankly, they don’t need it. However, by maybe offering a pot smoker a bit of education on the effects of weed, and safe ways to use it, instead of slapping them in the face with a criminal record, it is possible to potentially reduce use and encourage responsible practices.
Of course, there are drug users who really do need help, such as those addicted to harder substances and doing serious damage to their bodies. In this situation, rather than being treated as criminals, they would be treated as patients in need of medical care. In any case, it is imperative that any broad drug legalization isn't converted into a mandatory treatment program. Yes, some drug users have problems, but by far not all. Compulsory drug treatment, similar to what Portugal has implemented, misses the point: Drug use is not a disease, either.
Another argument for legalisation is the cost. Every year billions of euros are spent on enforcing prohibition and incarcerating minor drug offenders. Imagine what could be done if that money, and time, was spent on the health service, education, or focusing on more serious crime. But not only would legalisation save this money, it would also generate more in the form of regulation, and the jobs and taxes that are created by it.
Something else to consider is that drug related arrests tend to focus on a disproportionate segment of society, namely those who are poor or of an ethnic minority. Now initial thoughts may be, “well, maybe they just use more?”, but according to various reports, including this one from the drug policy charity, Release, this is incorrect. If anything, white people use drugs more, but are substantially less likely to be searched or arrested. The legalisation of drugs makes this issue redundant.
One of the shining beacons that show decriminalisation, and potentially legalisation, can be a benefit to mankind is Portugal. All drugs have been decriminalised in Portugal for over 10 years now, and it has caused a revolution in drug abuse and crime.
By focusing on treatment, education, and prevention instead of prosecuting users, the amount of drug related deaths and illnesses has plummeted – all without the increase in general drug use that many feared decriminalisation would bring. Not only this, but as people are not being put in prison for minor offences, crime is down, and criminal activity associated with the drug trade has not increased.
More information on the effects of decriminalisation can be seen in the recent report by Transform, a UK based drug policy charity.
It is a win-win situation. There has been no negative effect of decriminalising drugs. The children are not more at risk, crime is not up, drugs have not become more accessible, and resources are being better used.
This is further shown by two very recent events, in which the World Health Organisation has called for the decriminalisation of all drugs, and prominent world leaders have commissioned a report calling for an end to the War on Drugs.
Another fine example of how legalisation could possible work is the recent legalisation of cannabis in Colorado. It is now legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess and use cannabis without legal ramification. Since the move, crime has reduced, jobs have been created, and overall tax revenue is up!
LEGALSATION VS DECRIMINILSATION
So why choose legalisation over decriminalisation? Portugal has decriminalised, and things seem to be going well. Well it all comes down to crime. Yes, decriminalisation certainly helps reduce harm to users, and is certainly better than prohibition, but it doesn’t address the underlying problems as effectively as legalisation.
Under decriminalisation it is no longer a criminal offence to possess a small amount of drugs, but can still result in the drugs being confiscated and a civil fine being issued. It still remains completely illegal to produce and sell drugs. This means there can be no regulation, and without regulation the grip of criminal gangs cannot be broken, as there is no safe place to obtain the drugs people are after. As a result, decriminalisation simply acts as a band-aid, letting us deal with the effects of drug use better, without actually making things safer.
Through the legalisation of drugs, we can ensure they are being used safely, deal a detrimental blow to crime, and generate jobs and billions of euros for the economy.