Legalise Drugs, but Tax Them Too 

Legalise Drugs, but Tax Them Too 
Posted by FoM on July 28, 2001 at 22:36:16 PT
Irish Comment By Henry McDonald
Source: Observer
Irving Welsh and Danny Boyle got it all wrong. Most junkies, pace Welsh's novel and Boyle's film Trainspotting, are crashing bores. Some of the most soul destroying afternoons and evenings of my life were spent in the company of druggies. Far from the smack-chic of Renton, Sick Boy and Spud, Trainspotting's anti-heroes, the wasted days in dingy basements off Dublin's North Circular Road or that flat-cum-latrine in Belfast's Holy Land with blowheads, acid trippers and E'd-up-clubbers induced nothing but mind-numbing boredom. 
Watching friends skin up the first spliff or dab the LSD-soaked tab onto their tongue filled me with dread and tedium; the sign to make my excuses and leave before the verbal diarrhoea started flowing. There were of course more sombre consequences. At least two close friends died indirectly due to heroin; the lives of others were devastated. Yet while the drug sub-culture still fills me in equal parts with disgust and ennui there seems no logic to prolonging what is arguably the most futile conflict in human history: the so-called war against drugs. This war, equivalent to fighting a thousand Vietnams, can never be won. Even the United States, with its superpower monopoly and infinite military resources, has failed to stem the narcotics flood. Dictatorships, whether of the Islamic fundamentalist variety as in Saudi Arabia or the Leninist-capitalist model in China, have employed brutal methods to suppress drugs, respectively beheading or blowing the brains out of alleged dealers. The latter means of dispatching drug peddlers is also used by the IRA. But neither the Saudi and Chinese cliques nor the Provos can put an end to the production or consumption of drugs. That is because since the time of the ancient Greeks (possibly even before) the iron laws of economics have operated: a permanent demand creating an inevitable supply. And dealers are prepared to continue risking their lives on the streets of Belfast, Beijing and Riyadh to meet that demand. Prohibition, as the Americans found with alcohol in the 1920s and 1930s, is counter-productive and only gives rise to a vast criminal sub-culture. The monopolisation of supply in criminals' hands hikes up the price of drugs to the point where consumers can only feed their habit through larceny or prostitution, thus further fuelling crime. Meanwhile, families are ripped apart and lives shattered through the fermentation, advertising and distribution of the most popular legal drug in Ireland - alcohol. How many young men for instance will end up in the casualty wings of Irish hospitals this weekend due to obscene bouts of boozing? What are the odds of someone getting mowed down on an Irish road by a drunken driver? The answer to both questions is obvious and yet we persist in glamourising drink while demonizing drugs. Earlier this month I felt like I was experiencing the effects of some hallucinogenic substance when I cheered for a Tory. Peter Lilley, the former Conservative Minister, had come publicly out in favour of de-criminalizing cannabis. Was this a trip or some strange new form of reality: New Labour as New Puritans, the Tories as twenty-first-century Cavaliers? Although Lilley should have gone further and called for the decriminalization of all drugs, at least he was brave enough to inject some realism into an otherwise sterile debate. In contrast there are no voices in the Dail echoing Lilley's call despite the dreadful drugs epidemic infecting Irish society. No one, it seems, in Leinster House or the capital's opinion-forming salons (except Kevin Myers) has the guts to follow Lilley's lead. Legalisation of course contains inherent dangers. The sale of narcotics should be regulated but definitely not controlled by the state. The prospect of the state selling drugs to consumers brings to mind Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, where the regime kept the masses docile by doling out Soma. Nor should legalisation imply hedonistic license. The minimum age should range from between 16 for soft drugs and 18 for harder substances; those who sell to children must suffer the maximum penalties. There are pitfalls over price fixing. An exorbitantly taxed product will result in what has already happened with tobacco in Ireland, where the paramilitaries have flooded the market with cheaper illegal foreign cigarettes. None of this is to suggest a solution to the drugs problem because there is no solution, only the pragmatic management of it. A reasonable tax on narcotics can help fund education programmes aimed at reducing demand for drugs. Furthermore, decriminalization would wipe out far more effectively than the Criminal Assets Bureau the profits earned by loathsome beings, such as John Gilligan, who control supply. With apologies to The Verve: the drugs don't work but the ban on them just makes us all worse. Note: It's time that we took cannabis, heroin and Ecstasy out of the hands of the criminals. Source: Observer, The (UK)Author: Henry McDonaldPublished: Sunday July 29, 2001Copyright: 2001 The ObserverContact: letters Articles:Major Review of Drug Policy Planned To Consider Relaxing The Law on Cannabis Renews Cannabis Call After Hash Cafe Tour
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Comment #1 posted by Doug on July 29, 2001 at 10:32:34 PT
The New Anti Prohibition
This article is typical of a new strain that we are seeing, that I suppose is progress. First bash drug users, just to show that your heart is in the right place (or use the line, "I've never inhaled") and then you can feel free to go on and defend legalization of drugs, buecause after all you're a sober Irishman and would never do any of these things.It reminds me of someone who tells us how lazy black folks are before saying how we must end segregation. I can apreciate the sentiment, but why do we have to listen to the prejudice. There are plenty of "junkies" who have lived normal lives, for example one of the founders of the John Hopkins Medical School, but the laws make that mighty difficult these days.
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