Thursday, 5 July 2012

Legalise -- or "depenalise" -- drugs for a healthier, safer world

I watched a reality Cable program a while back on the American prison system, "Lockup", I think it was called.  This episode was about an ultra-high security prison in Texas, a "Supermax" (truly horrid places).
The Warden at this prison had decided to ban the use of tobacco.  Result?  Not the disappearance of tobacco, as you might expect in a place which controls its inmates so strictly and intrusively.  The result was instead that the price of tobacco went up to around $US 100 per ounce.
Now, given that the prison has a controlled population, where warders conduct regular, random and thorough searches of prisoners' cells, where visitors are strictly controlled and vetted before entering, given all this, tobacco still finds its way inside and all that happened was that price went up to match demand.
Given this, how can a government hope -- ever -- to eradicate drug use amongst its immeasurably larger and freer population?
Of course, the answer is that it can't.  The "War on Drugs" begun by Nixon in the seventies is doomed to failure.
That's why I like what the folks at LEAP do. They have experience in the "war" and their voices should be heard.
In this article in today's New York Times -- "Numbers Tell of Failure in Drug War" --  Eduardo Porter makes a great case for the legalisation -- or at least to "depenalise" -- drugs.  The benefits would be enormous, for health, welfare and the economy.

"... many critics of the current policy believe the solution is to legalize — to bring illegal drugs out of the shadows where they are controlled by criminal gangs, into the light of the legal market where they can be regulated and taxed by the government.
"Jeffrey Miron, an economist at Harvard who studies drug policy closely, has suggested that legalizing all illicit drugs would produce net benefits to the United States of some $65 billion a year, mostly by cutting public spending on enforcement as well as through reduced crime and corruption....
"There are other options. The Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose membership includes former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Poland, has called on national governments to “depenalize” if not necessarily legalize drug possession and sales."

Read it all....