Growing up you believe the world is meant to be the way it is. The older I get the more I realise that this is not the case. The world is full of injustices and atrocities that governments and the voice of faith expect us to accept, though with each passing year they grow fewer and fewer, at least one would hope. I have created this blog as a space for me to rant about all things science, politics, philosophy and religion, before it’s too late and the vessel of new atheism propelled by a growing surge in secularism solves all of the world’s problems for good.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Well and truly time to rethink drug laws

I'm glad these sorts of stories are coming up more and more. It's not good when it comes to the poor people who get prosecuted and feel the force of the hypocritical and unintelligible laws. However, it is more evidence that our criminalization for possession of drugs such as cannabis, MDMA and acid is a total joke to say the least. These drugs have been shown time and time again to be much less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and have countless medicinal uses we could be benefiting from. (I point you to this doco ranking the worlds 20 most dangerous drugs as a more palatable reference, it's a good and surprising watch. Here's a graph of their ranking.)

Jimmy Carter once said;
 “When the legal side effects of a substance cause more harm to a person than the side effects of the substance itself, we have an injustice!"
I think this is becoming more and more the case when you have 800 000 people a year in the US getting a criminal record, and even lengthy jail time, for simple possession of substances like cannabis. When you get a criminal record relating to cannabis it becomes impossible to get a Government loan for tertiary education, though if you murder, rape and torture someone you can still get one. In some states you can go to jail for life, FOR LIFE?!?!?! if you commit a felony 3 times. That has occurred to people who've been caught with cannabis 3 times, no matter what the amount, and they get life in jail...

It's calculated that 4% of the adult population of the world, 162 million people, use cannabis annually. It's obvious to everyone that the war on drugs has never worked, thus it's 'high' time we sucked it up and did what needed to be done, even if it isn't easy. We need to legalise and regulate all drugs.

I know the majority of you will flip out, but hear me out.

When I say legalise and regulate all drugs, that's not to say chuck them up on the shelves at the local supermarket for anyone to grab by the bucket load. To the contrary, it's to say take control! Take it back from the organised crime gangs who are taking advantage of the fallacious "war on drugs". Take it back from our children who can acquire cannabis, ecstasy and acid more easily than they can alcohol or tobacco. Few drug dealers, probably not a single one in fact, ask for ID...

Outlawing these substances has never made them go away. It has just turned anyone who used them into a criminal where originally they weren't one. This is especially important regarding commonly used drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy, which are less harmful than "legal" and "good" drugs like alcohol and tobacco. 

People have always wanted to use drugs, a substantial portion of all populations no less. The legal issues surrounding them has never quelled the numbers, and those people who do wish to use these substances responsibly definitely have a right to do so. They also have a right to be able to do so in the safest possible way. 

When you have bike riders die on the roads, you increase the safety and effectiveness of the bikes themselves, of the helmets and clothing people wear, of the lighting they have to use. You give them private bike paths, lanes on the road, you widen the lanes on the roads, you slow the car speeds on the streets. However, you do not outlaw bikes... Why? Because that would be moronic and not solve anything. People would still want to ride bikes, and rightly so. The same should be the case for all recreational drugs. They can be dangerous, but that's not reason enough to outlaw them. It's reason enough to improve the safety of the drugs themselves and their use. 

Portugal decriminlized illicit drugs in 2001 I believe. Here's a graph illustrating the substantial effect this had on decreasing all drug usage in their high school children.

Handguns are legal in Australia for fuck sake. You have to get a license, have a background check, use it only at a specific location, keep it in a safe separate from ammunition. Why could we not put the same sort of legislation in place for recreational drugs like cocaine and heroin? Surely they can't have more potential for danger and harm than a hand gun? I don't own a handgun, in fact I've never seen one in real life, let alone fired one. I'm sure the same would be the case if heroin or cocaine were legalised and regulated in this way. People always fear that everyone would drop everything if that happened, all civilisation would come to a halt as we hit the stores and stocked up on cocaine and heroin. People would be lined up in the streets injecting heroin behind their eyes and putting cocaine under their foreskins. Surely nothing could be further from the truth? Who are all these people who would suddenly go crazy for such drugs if they were legalised tomorrow? Surely anyone of that attitude would have already got their hands on the substances long long ago. I know I wouldn't bother... I'm educated on the drugs, I know what they do and that they can lead to addiction. I can thus make the educated and personal decision to not use them. Though I don't think others should be forced to conform with my personal preference. I wouldn't surf Bell's Beach because I'd fear injury or shark attack, but I'd never insist it was therefore too dangerous for anyone else to do so. 

The argument that they're dangerous and thus need to be banned is complete crap. Sky diving is dangerous. Cutting up vegetables is dangerous. Driving to work is dangerous. This is not about whether or not they're dangerous, that's just the guise the Government uses to justify outlawing these substances. More people die from being hit on the head by coconuts each year than they do from cannabis, acid or ecstasy use. More people die from car accidents each year than all combined illicit drug deaths. This was never ever about how dangerous these drugs were. It was about misinformation, fear, lies, control and the religious right being anti anything that makes one feel good that isn't worshipping God (masturbation anyone?). I guess when it comes down to it the Governments aren't to blame, they're just capitulating to what the public want. So it's our own fault, but it's something we rectified asap, as we did with the prohibition of alcohol back in the 1920s-30s. That was as much a failure as is today's prohibition on drugs.

Here's a graph of annual deaths from drugs in the US, who's at the top? I reiterate that this is and never was about potential for harm!

It's about time we afforded those who would use *insert illicit drug* in a responsible way, as many people do so a great deal more responsibly than others using legal drugs like alcohol. How many people high on cannabis or acid have gone home to bash their wives, held up a corner store, or raped someone? 

Yes punish anyone using them inappropriately. Yes punish anyone buying them or giving them to children, the same as you would with alcohol or tobacco. We only have things to gain. Better quality for those who want to use them, thus leading to less overdoses and less deaths, and healthier users. Better education for users. The regulation of highly addicted substances in such a way that rates of addiction to them lessened. Take money and power away from organised crime, and give governments numerous more items to tax and spend the money on education/health/whatever..! Most importantly, it will make them less available to our children.

We need to stop punishing the majority for the mistakes of the minority. Control and education will always be a better alternative than fear and ignorance. Especially when it's people like this woman below who are suffering the full force of the law.


  1. The issue is cocaine, crack and heroin and the other "really bad drugs". These are simply stupid drugs that don't make you harmless.

    Heroin and Crack aren't drugs you take to relax, they are drugs you take to escape. Cocaine I fear due to the whole "crack thing", the problem with cocaine is if you take it you turn into a jerk. If you take enough you stay as one. PCP is just violence in drug format and Crystal Meth is a bad decision overall.

    Most of the drug trade money comes from coke, marijuana and ecstasy. We can legalise two of those without any real health fears. Coke however is a different problem.

  2. It's not an easy problem to nut out and fix. I know that there are definitely those more benign drugs and those far more addictive and dangerous. However, at the end of the day I think that you and only you have the right to decide whether or not something goes into your body, especially in the privacy of your own home if you're not harming anyone. I'm not saying don't keep stringent laws that punish those who misuse the drugs, we have the same for alcohol today. It's your body at the end of the day though, and you should be able to put whatever you like into it.

    Some people need to escape, and I don't think that those who do shouldn't be able to simply because others in society deem it inappropriate. How many people out there drink to escape? Or drink and then beat someone, rape someone, rob someone, etc etc. We're not banning booze anytime soon, but we do punish anyone misusing it, and rightly so.

  3. What a chock-a-block of useful info! I think, addicts must be aware that how long does heroin stay in your urine then they will surely try to stay away from it.