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So, Why Are Drugs Illegal?

There's been quite a lot in the news today about cocaine, how it's cut and whether or not it's declining. As part of this the Today programme had someone on this morning arguing that the prohibition seems to be causing more problems then it solves.

I do wonder whether he has a point. No matter how much you ban things like this, people will find access to them and you risk promoting them by making them cool. It certainly seems to me that tobacco seems more appealing to those under the legal purchase age then those over it.

As far as I can see most of the issues with using these types of drugs effect the user rather than society as a whole, at which point is there not an argument that if people want to use them and they are aware of the effects, why not just let them get on with it if it doesn't affect the rest of us?

It seems to me that the only effective way of preventing people getting into these things is education rather than prohibition and legalising it would give government a lot more control over what is in circulation and help reduce the issues of cutting agents.

At the end of the day, I don't want to buy any, so it doesn't effect me, but it does make me wonder. Is this really the best way to discourage their use?


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
12th May, 2009 23:33 (UTC)
It does affect the rest of us - even if currently illegal drugs were legalised, their effects prevent many of their users living any sort of sustainable life. Lawyers on £100k salaries manage to afford it and the afford the means to deal with the fallout that follows, but ordinary people can't afford to maintain living like that without finding more lucrative sources of income.

I haven't formed an opinion on whether legalisation would help, but I think it's a mistake to assume that one group in society won't affect another. People are all connected. The knot is always attached to the scalp somewhere.
13th May, 2009 08:44 (UTC)
Yes, it will affect others to an extent, but aren't your same arguments also true for alcohol and tobacco, which are legal?
13th May, 2009 08:54 (UTC)
...that's why I wrote the second paragraph...
12th May, 2009 23:44 (UTC)
at which point is there not an argument that if people want to use them and they are aware of the effects, why not just let them get on with it if it doesn't affect the rest of us?

Unfortunately drugs DO affect the rest of us. Some examples: driving under the influence, muggings and burglaries by addicts needing money for their fix, addicted parents neglecting/abusing their kids, work absenteeism, accidental lethal overdose, etc. etc. That is why there are support groups for people who are not addicts but whose lives have been affected by addiction in others close to them.

Unless you're also getting them to lock themselves in a room under a doctor's supervision, I don't see how just 'letting' people do drugs is going to be consequence free for the rest of us. Hell, the legal drug alcohol is not consequence-free for non-drinkers, why would any other drug be different?
13th May, 2009 08:38 (UTC)
You are confusing the effects of drugs with the effects of prohibition. There is quite a bit of evidence that illegal drugs are so expensive because they are illegal (costing about 30 times their market value). Legalising would make it easier for someone to support their habit (ok, they might just buy more, etc.). Legalising also draws the problem above the surface, where weedkiller is much more effective (/end{obligatory analogy}, no pun intended), whilst not necessarily increasing usage.

I assume that you are in favour of prohibiting alcohol, since this will push the cost up, giving us exactly the same qualitative problems we currently have with illegal drugs.

[I acknowledge that one could expand a several page discussion out of the points I have mentioned]
14th May, 2009 00:45 (UTC)
I'm almost at the point of being pro prohibition (even though historically that never worked, either.) Yeah, there's no easy fix for it. I guess I don't trust the gov't (Canadian in my case) to not fuck up the regulation of such substances if they ever became legal. Having organized crime out of the drug business would be lovely, I admit.

What I'd love to see is people changing enough so that there's no need for such drugs. But that'll probably never happen. :/
13th May, 2009 08:50 (UTC)
OK, bad choice of words as it does effect us, but as you say the same is true for alcohol, which is legal.

The point remains that I can't see that prohibition is necessarily the best way of dealing with the problem given the amount of issues it seems to add to the problem including the black market inflating the costs and the uses of cutting agents, etc
14th May, 2009 07:01 (UTC)
I don't see where you're going with the alcohol legal point. Clearly alcohol, while it has good uses, has been a disaster for society (see figures on violence, other crime, and alcohol). However, America's prohibition experiment showed that once a drug has been legal, and as a result used widely, it is almost impossible to get a stopper in that bottle. The genie is out and causing chaos.

Surely this is an argument against legalisation, not for?
13th May, 2009 09:00 (UTC)
Walking home from the lab at night is bad enough when people are drunk, if they were instead coked up to think they are so awesome as to be above morality and everybody must want to have sex with them, I would be on the market for buying considerable amounts of illegal mace.
13th May, 2009 06:48 (UTC)
I think the assumption that education will stop people making bad choices is pretty naive.

I know for a fact that that wood on the porch is only going to get worse if I don't paint it, but a year on I haven't. Laziness is a more powerful force than education in my life.

My school education did include quite a bit on the horrors of drugs, licit and illicit. I'm not saying that's bad or useless, just that there are still people my age taking drugs.

I think if you compare the deaths linked one way or another to tobacco, alcohol and every class A drug together, it's immediately apparent that the most dangerous are not the big killers - it's the most legal.

That says to me keeping them illegal is definitely the right thing to do.

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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