Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Decriminalizing Most Illegal Drugs: Another Take

The late, great soul of the U.S. conservative movement, William F. Buckley, Jr., began advocating for the legalization of most drugs in the late 1990s. He recognized that our "war on drugs" was a massive strategic failure from many perspectives ranging from public health to government intrusion. Outside the Beltway has an interesting take on legalization and one of its immediate effects, increasing life expectancy, as well as its impact on the concept of nationalized health care.


Costello said...

There are few things that leave me more furious than the current prohibition on drugs across much of the world. The deliberate mistreatment of sex workers by maintaining the illegality of prostitution - usually by those who claim to have their best interests at heart - is another piece of hypocrisy that manages to unite those from both left and right.

It's hard to think of any comparable issue which has so much evidence in favour of legalisation and against prohibition. You can leave aside the pinciple that the state has absolutely on business involving itself in a matter which should simply be between those who demand the product and those willing and capable to supply it and just look at the undoubtale benefits legalisation brings from the experiences of countries that have stopped criminilasing drug users.

The change of the laws in Portugal in (i think it was 2001 - certainly early this decade) so that posession and use of drugs was no longer a criminal offence. Drug users were now sent to counselling and rehab rather than jail - and didn't even have to undergo this therapy if they didn't want to. Drug use amongst the general populace dropped, as did HIV infections as addicts were no longer forced underground and sharing needles and those seeking treatment for drugs use doubled. To quote their statistics:

Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana.

The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.

The fact that so may hundreds of thousands - at the least - of people have their lives ruined to varying degress and often destroyed outright because politicians feel the need to involve themselves in something which is absolutely none of their business is truly sickening. The thought of how much crime would go down, how fewer prisoners there would be, how many police man hours would be saved if drugs were legalised is truly mindboggling. But it won't happen, because our politicians are careerist, self serving parasite scum who will never take a hard moral choice when it is so easy to maintain the utterly immoral and destructive status quo.

Old Tybee Ranger said...

Agreed. Drug enforcement has evolved into a huge industry with entrenched political power at several levels. The strategic goal is no longer the focus of work as long as the small tactical activities are interpreted as "victories." Senseless