Ok, so one clubber dead and five hospitalised after taking a ‘bad batch’ of drugs in Manchester. Condolences to the those who have lost a loved one and let’s hope the other five make a full recovery.
Tragic events like usually serve as a cue for something to be banned, as was the case with handguns after the Dunblane massacre in 1996. The problem is, what when the item of offence, which in this case happens to be class A drugs, is already proscribed by law? Can we make it any ‘more illegal’ than it already is? How do we deal with the fact that despite their current legal status, those with a demand for the product seemed to have no issue whatsoever obtaining supply? And do we dare change our approach on the issue, open ourselves up to the possibility that prohibition does not work, and look at alternatives that might?
A popular narrative of the narcotics prohibitionists is to suggest that there has never really been a concerted ‘war on drugs’, as characterised in the mainstream media. Perhaps this could be summed up best by the title of the Peter Hitchens book. ‘the War we Never Fought’, a polemic of ‘practical’ policing solutions to the growing popularity of narcotics, decriminalised marijuana by stealth and any suggestion that the war on drugs was ultimately lost.
This somewhat reminds me of socialists who insist that its dismal track record in delivering prosperity is because their miserable ideology, despite numerous attempts, unimpeded by such trivia as parliamentary democracy or personal freedoms enshrined in law, has never been executed in its purest form. Of course, this is bullshit of the highest order, as is the suggestion from prohibitionists that if only we banged up a few more people for possession, devoted meagre police resources to busting youths passing spliffs around student accomodation and seriously ‘cracked down’, then the ‘war on drugs’ could be won.
There is nothing more empty, vacuous and doomed to failure as a ‘government crackdown’ on anything. The state is a cumbersome and bloated mess, unable to generate the pace, flexibility and focus to follow such a ‘crackdown’ through, even if the cards were stacked in its favour. It’s disingenuous at best to pretend that ‘Just Say No’ (remember Zammo?), an endless stream of shocking anti-drug campaigns and the imprisonment of thousands of people for possession of drugs that were solely intended for personal use did not happen. They did, and have been proven to have failed.
What’s the truth about illegal drugs? Well, it’s been demonstrated beyond a doubt that criminalisation does not stop would-be users from getting hold of them for a start. Prohibition turns an entire commerical market into a criminal monopoly, removes any opportunity to impose regulation or quality control, makes villains rich and wrecks innocent lives through unnecessary prosecution. Criminals who operate in this space need not care about the quality of the product they distribute, whereas a company selling ecstasy cut with washing powder in a regulated market would face both civil and criminal prosecution and be closed down immediately.
The trouble with the Mr Mackey tendency is their inability to face reality when supply, demand and a lack of genuine outrage exists about a product. Prohibition of alcohol in the United States failed for this reason, and it’s time for us to accept that the ‘war on drugs’ has gone down a similar route. Let’s bring narcotics back under the legal controls that seem to work quite well for alcohol and tobacco, reduce their extortionate street prices and cut crime at a stroke.
As the legend that is Bill Hicks once said, “I’m not pro or con, it’s a personal choice”. Take it easy, and don’t let the bastards grind you down.