The report in The Independent doesn’t mince its words. Beneath a headline a hard-hitting conclusion is drawn: giving gangsters control of the recreational drug supply chain simply sponsors gangs. Doing this, says the report, is “stupid” and “cowardly”. Somewhere, government representative are squirming uncomfortably. It’s not fun being called either of these things. But how does The Independent reach this conclusion?
Gangsters are getting rich on the ‘War’
Prohibition strategies, such as those seen in the US alcohol prohibition, have predictable results. At least, the alcohol prohibition should have made them predictable. Back then, gangsters like Al Capone got rich from trading in the illicit substance, and that’s just what’s happening as a result of the War on Drugs.
Drug barons, gangsters and the mafia are making massive amounts of money by dealing drugs, and since they’re the only source, they don’t face any real competition. It’s enough money to be worth killing for – at least in their opinion – and that’s just what all too often happens.
Meanwhile people, mainly young men, are being incarcerated en masse for being the drug-lord’s customers: an effect that is counter-productive in that it ruins lives that may otherwise have been reasonably normal.
Business is thriving
For those who deal in illicit drugs, meanwhile, business is good – and growing. This has been evidenced by the recent figures from Europe regarding the resurgence of MDMA or ‘Ecstasy’. The Lisbon-based European Monitoring Center for Drugs estimates that around 2.1 million people used the drug during the last 12months, an increase of 30,000 compared to its estimate for the previous year.
And according to the Center, the Ecstasy on the streets and in clubs is stronger than ever before, possibly contributing to the resurgence of the drug after its peak and decline in the mid-2000’s. The percentage of young adults who admit to using ecstasy is currently 3.5% in most of Europe. 5.5% of Netherlands youth admit to using the drug, but because of permissive regulations, they would likely admit to drug use more freely. Figures from other European countries are likely lower than they are in reality since respondents would be wary of the consequences of admitting Ecstasy use.
War on drugs: an epic failure
According to the Independent, these figures should be sufficient evidence of the War on Drugs’ failure – if further evidence were really needed. Decades of facts and information are already available to support this view, it says, and the new information is hardly a ground-breaking revelation.
Subsequent to the passing of the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act, trillions have been spent on the War on Drugs, and more harm than good has been done. The majority of the ecstasy users on which the report was based were adults who harmed no-one through their evening of drug induced dance frenzy. Meanwhile the real drug barons behind the scenes inflict violence and misery on society and rake in millions in ill-gotten gains while remaining untouched by shifting risk to small-time front men.
So what does “The Independent’s” correspondent recommend as an alternative?
Regulation rather than prohibition could save lives
The report recommends that the war on drugs be abandoned. Adults, it says, should have the right to choose what they do to their own bodies, and regulated supply of recreational drugs would not only generate income for civic causes, but also protect users. Most importantly, a vital source of income would be taken away from organized crime rings, creating a safer world for all.
It’s not only journalists who are reaching this conclusion. A study published in the respected medical journal “The Lancet” found that decriminalization, a slightly less significant step than full regulation, had positive results for society. Apart from failing to result in any increase in problematic drug use, the journal found that “public health benefits” and a lower incarceration rate were among the direct consequences of decriminalization.
The authors of the study recommended a fully regulated and legalized recreational drug market in order to increase public health and safety. Cannabis, in particular, fell under the spotlight, but even harder drugs could at least be made safer and become less glamourized if subject to strict regulation and mainstream availability.
In addition, the study found that prison terms for drug offences resulted in conditions which promoted the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, adding impetus to its recommendation in favor of a regulated recreational drug industry.
Full legalization with attendant regulation would have many benefits
Among these are:
- Depriving organized crime of income and profits.
- Unadulterated drugs to allow for safer use.
- Traceability of drugs.
- The monitoring of users and the power to offer assistance when needed.
- Reduced incarceration of small-time offenders.
- Reduced spread of infectious diseases through risky practices such as sharing needles.
- De-glamorization of drugs as a lifestyle and habit.
Drugs it seems, will always be with us, and driving this underground only offers benefits to the unscrupulous, with untold costs in terms of human misery.