Friday, 30 March 2012

Drug Laws - Sense or Nonsense?

Any civilised society has to live by the rule of law.  Without laws, everyone does what seems right to them and the end result is always chaos. A jungle.

But as thinking people who abide by the rule of law we should also consider the justice of the laws which govern us. Are they appropriate to the way people live today? Are they fair to everyone? For some time now there has been a lot of debate around the drug laws. Cigarettes and alcohol are legal. Cannabis/marijuana, heroin, crack/cocaine, ecstasy, meth etc. are not.

So I ask the question - do our drug laws make sense?

The argument for change:

Because drugs are illegal they have to be smuggled into the country. This causes scarcity, and scarcity drives up prices, resulting in acquisitive crime but this is not the case for legal drugs. When was the last time you heard of someone's house being burgled or a person being mugged to fund an alcohol or cigarette habit?

Furthermore, the goods sold to obtain drug money are often stolen. The street-value of these stolen goods is far lower than the shop-price. This means that to buy £50 of heroin an addict will need to steal about £500 of goods, give or take. This makes drug crime very expensive to the community.

Who profits from the illegal drugs trade? Huge amounts of money go straight to organised crime. The results are even worse in countries that produce drugs, where they are used to fund large scale paramilitary organisations, corrupt governments and undermine stability.
Not only are legal drugs cheaper, reducing the need for crime, but the tax revenue gained from this goes into the public coffers.  America tried to make alcohol illegal - the result? Al Capone.

Illegal drugs are not subject to quality controls and so are laced with all kinds of toxic chemicals to bulk them up. The result is that the impurities sometimes cause more harm to drug users than the actual drugs themselves! Illegality keeps drug users on the margins. This discourages them from accessing help and treatment, exacerbating not only their addiction but the impact on their families, employment and prospects.

The war on drugs costs. Keeping a person in prison is more expensive than sending them to university - not to mention the wasted time and potential of the prisoners. Prison overcrowding could be resolved at a stroke.
Argument for keeping drugs illegal:

Alcohol and cigarettes are legal. Yet they are not only addictive but kill far more people than illegal drugs. Making more drugs legal will only result in more harm as they will be easier to obtain. Based on this, some would even suggest making alcohol and cigarettes illegal.

According to a BBC documentary called Horizon in  2011 there were:

Deaths per year due to Alcohol:                40,000
Deaths per year due to Tobacco:               114,000
Deaths per year due to Ecstasy:                27
Deaths per year due to Heroin:                 700
Deaths per year due to Amphetamine:      35
Deaths per year due to Cocaine:               214

The moral argument. If drug taking is wrong the law cannot be seen to condone this. What climate would legal drugs create for our children? People should only take drugs that are medicinal and beneficial for their health.

Making drugs legal would bring them into the mainstream of society encouraging more people to experiment with them, possibly coercing those who otherwise would not have considered taking it, putting them at risk of becoming addicted.
Once again, I believe we should live by the law so I'm not suggesting that  anyone break the law but to discuss the pro's and cons of drugs within our society.

Do you think that drugs should be legal or kept illegal, and if so, why?


  1. You are certainly the master of controversy with your blog topics.

    I am sure that many will disagree, but it seems that the more readily available harmful substances are, the more people will use and abuse them.


    1. Thanks John
      I see your point here but just as a thought, could it be the opposite? when something is made readily available then why do we need to abuse it?

  2. Certainly, this is a very controversial subject.

    Not so much because there are so many things that makes good sense in any one of the two propositions about legalizing or not drugs, but, also because there are so many evil consequences in both of them.

    It is not casual, this happens because we are trying to bring factual solutions to a metaphysical problem. I am sorry, I know this may be a disappointing answer but, from my viewpoint, there is no other.

    There is not a simple, easy, or obvious way to define a human being, we are born with our body and something else, we do not yet know exactly what it is (or I should call "who" it is). It is in that metaphysical part of our beings where the problem resides. Afterward, of course, we help to develop it, of assuage it, with the immersion of the body of this person in the complicated world we live in.

    If we could reach that almost unattainable area of our personality and teach it to cope with problems as we do with the practical and physical world, maybe would be a way to avoid the drugs problem, as there is a way to avoid, with some exceptions, a way to cope with worldly problems.

    Unfortunately, up to now, there is no way to move in that realm, except blindingly and haltingly, using the poorly developed guides that had been given to us by Freud and his friends, adding to all these things some philosophical additions coming from far away. (I am not being derisive to Psychology, only following the outcome of the use of its canons in our days).

    While we stay away of this knowledge, the behaviour of humankind would follow an erratic track where, to some people, drugs can be a helping crutch until it develop in the proper hell where we "abandon all hope when we cross that door", or a supporting hand for those lucky enough who are not affected too deep.

    Following this thread, there is no solution making drugs legals or not. As in all other human behaviours, it will depend from the resources that particular human being have, physically and metaphysically.

    I know, maybe I should have not added this opinion, but I felt I should do it.

    If there is something that must be explaining yet more, maybe it will be a singular experience to read "The Allegory of the Cave", a Platonic philosophical explanation of our human condemn, in case this condemn exists, of course, and if we would like to know about the intense feelings of reality that possess us.

    1. Untony
      I'm glad you gave your opinion as it always helps to see things from different points of view, and you do have a lovely way of doing that.

      Who knows if we will ever find a solution to legalize drugs or in keeping it illegal. Maybe we should also take a look at Amsterdam and their coffee shops where people can use cannabis for personal use only, and whether or not there has been an increase in drug related crimes, health etc......or has it made no difference at all. just me thinking again (doesn't mean I approve).

      Rumpunch reading the book your suggested? Hmmm. The title is enough to get me in a spin. Do I need a dictionary? :) Thanks for the thought though.

    2. Thank you Rumpunch!

      You are too kind!

      Amsterdam could be a point of departure to some analysis, but we must remember the incidence of "drug tourism" in the bargain, so maybe, we cannot get any accurate meaning there either. As you wrote, 'just thinking'

      You are being too humble, I know you can read anything without difficulty, and if you need a dictionary it is only to level a leg of your table. :) Stop spinning or you will ruin the Rumpunch!! :))

    3. Thanks for your input Untony.What a good idea to buy the book to level my table. Ha ha,

  3. hmm...well articulated. I face a lot of double mindedness when it comes to an issue as that of drugs and narcotics.
    The Untouchables- the film about Al Capone ends with the officer Eliot Ness telling the Press "I think I will go have a drink". Which stands in a way for the law to be strictly enforced. So the people responsible for enforcing the law of the land have to be actually responsible. The debate however must go on. Nice post!

    Just that I could not publish the comment using the Wordpress account. Wish this blogger/wordpress incompatibility gets resolved soon.

    1. Thanks for your comment Unfashionable Observations. Glad you was able to get through.

  4. Difficult subject and Rum is making good points in it. I'm still not sure if it would be a good thing to legalize the exstacy, heroin, cocaine, amphetamine etc.

    As when it comes legal it will add the usage most probably. And when usage of those harsh drugs will increase so will increase the deaths and the healthy broblems caused by those drugs in the statistics. I think in those statistics about deaths caused by drugs, alcohol and tobacco, legalising the drugs would really increase the usage of the drugs and thus increase the deaths caused by the drugs cuz' then more people would start to use the drugs.

    Allthough legalising would decrease the criminality contributed to the usage of illegal drugs. It maybe would still cause more bad consequences to mankind than keeping harsh drugs illegal.

    I'm not saying tobacco and alcohol are not dangerous or harmful, but those are not killing and harming people such vehemently and quikly as the drugs. Especially the alcohol is not dangerous if used with temperance. Those who die of alcohol are problematic consumers of alcohol.

    1. Thanks for your opinion Amethyst, I guess my response would be the same as I said to John Teal and partly to Untony (above)

  5. Fascinating analysis of the dilemma.

  6. The law by itself is not the whole story. How many of us, if heroin or crack were made legal today, would go out and use it? I know I wouldn't.
    Conversely, how many of those people who choose to use these dangerous substances allow the fact that they are illegal to deter them?

    So the potential for harm resides in the person.

    Un-Tony's kind of said this already, but drugs in and of themselves can't do anything to anyone. It is we who pick them up and put them into our bodies. It is we who use them and abuse them.

    Drugs of all sorts have been used throughout history by all human societies. Full stop. So why is it that some people develop a problematic relationship with a drug and others don't?

    Research going back to the 70's has identified that individuals who use drugs as a coping mechanism to deal with some trauma in their lives, mental or physical illness etc. are far more likely to abuse. While others may just experiment and move on, or never try illegal drugs in the first place.

    This is called the 'self-medication hypothesis'. I believe that if we as a society are to address drug related harm we need to begin to see drug abuse as a red-flag, indicating harm at a deeper level in the person and find ways to engage with and heal this. I see the drug laws at present as more of a hinderance than a help with this, in addition to all the other problems outlined in the first set of arguments.

    OK, I'll get off my soap box now. Thanks, RumPunch.

    1. Good points Anonymous and thanks. Glad you got on that soap box.

  7. Many of the thoughts I have on the subject have already been expressed, by yourself and other readers. I don't see much point in re-hashing them.
    I really just want to commend you for using your own mind to question, and to learn. I also think it is important to speak about controversial subjects, and to learn about and respect others opinions for what they are.
    I really like what you are doing here. Good work, keep it up. This is my kind of blog. Real, honest, well spoken, and just a little bit gritty. I'll be checking in again with you soon...

    1. Jon
      I truly appreciate and value your comments, not just because you lifted up my spirits today, but mainly because you have 'hit the nail on the head' in what I originally wanted my blog to do. I wanted to discuss various subjects with others in a safe environment respecting honest opinions along the way, even if it is harsh at times (as long as it's not a personal attack upon any individual). I don't have all the answers and have learned a lot from what others have to say, and have seen things from different points of views. I am grateful to everyone who have participated since I began, and for those who have read and/or followed this blog.

      Thanks for stopping by, and hope you do return again soon :)

  8. The detrimental health effects of both legal and illegal drugs are well known. As such, we cannot encourage something that we know is harmful. So those that are illegal need to stay illegal. Even though alcohol & tobacco are legal, there is still crime related to smuggling, fake cigarettes and theft. So I would submit that legalizing other drugs will not thwart the criminal element either. The tax revenue seems to be outstripped by the health and societal costs.

    People use both legal and illegal drugs and will continue to do so - moving substances from one group to another won't change society as a whole. Society's health suffers from both legal and illegal drugs and that will continue. Criminals already make money from both groups and that will continue as well.

    Therefore, shifting some or all drugs from the illegal to the legal camp (or vice versa) is not going to solve anything. The problem is in the people. You and me.

    1. How could I not remember about the crime related to smuggling fake cigarettes? Yes, and his is a major problem in certain areas of London. Thanks for commenting Mark.

  9. Intresting post. Certainly controversial. I think the statistics regarding deaths from drugs would be more meaningful if they were expressed as a % of all users. Saying 700 people died from Heroin abuse and 40,000 people died from Alcohol abuse isn't very meaningful unless you know how many total people use heroin and alcohol.

    1. T.Start
      Thanks for commenting. I had to track back and find the percentages for you. Hope it helps:

      Alcohol deaths - 0.001% of users per year

      Tobacco deaths - 0.01% of users per year

      Ecstasy deaths - 0.00005% of users per year

      Heroin deaths - 0.002% of users per year

      Amphetamines deaths - 0.0000006% of users per year

      Cocaine deaths - 0.0003% of users per year

    2. Hi T. Stark, good point.

      In addition, to make a truly informed judgement it's also important to examine the types of risk/harm caused by respective drugs and try to factor this in as well.

      To measure this takes far more than just a body-count. I've put a few of these other elements in capitals to highlight them (so please don't think I'm shouting!)

      They might be TOXICITY. Heroin/morphine, IF it is pure, is far less toxic than alcohol - but creates TOLERANCE/DEPENDENCE far more quickly. As a result of this a person's LIFESTYLE is more likely to be impacted as finances need to be obtained to sustain a growing habit.

      Often this results in poor diet, involvement in CRIME/CRIMINAL JUSTICE and INJECTING- which has its own set of dangers.

      Crack/cocaine and amphetamines can cause increased risk-taking and violent BEHAVIOUR, as it makes users paranoid, aggressive, hyperactive and, hence, prone to violence. It also rapidly erodes MENTAL HEALTH. The impact on the FAMILY/COMMUNITY is also immense. There are also clear behavioural links with alcohol and violence, drink driving, DATE RAPE etc.

      This could continue at length but I don't want to tire the reader.

      Another thing to consider is that if, according to the self-medication hypothesis touched on earlier, there are a certain amount of people in society who are seeking to use drugs as a coping strategy, and they are the ones most likely to use problematically and come to harm, a change in the drug laws should only result in a shift in drugs of choice, not the sum total of deaths. Remember it is the user that is the determining factor as much as the drug of choice.

      In other words, a change to the law will only cause a redistribution among that cohort of the population. But, importantly, there would be a massive reduction in some of the other areas of harm some of which I have mentioned above.

      For a brilliant dramatic exposition of these issues I would advise viewing season 4 of 'The Wire'. Ok, it's just drama but it makes the point well.

  10. I wrote about this in college in my sociology class. Received a B on my paper.

    Your survey is from the BBC/UK though. Although it does support your argument - drugs are still considered illegal there.

    BUT (always one of these it seems...) I do agree that the US Government should legalize drugs. You would have a "high" for the first 5-10 years but you would see it level out and start seeing smaller numbers as the allure and money that go along with drugs would wane and level out.

    I don't think it will ever happen though in my lifetime. Too many politics, lobbyists, the war on drugs... blah blah blah will keep it from happening.

    1. Thanks Avgioegeek, I agree, I can't see it happening either, but we could both be wrong.

  11. Seems like legalizing anything turns into a slippery slope. Where do we draw the new red line; at the next drug on the hierarchy? Calls for the legalization of the next drug soon thereafter become the new political topic.

    1. Yes, you have a point. It's the same issue with 'Legal Highs' at the moment. If you ban one drug, there is always another on the market so it becomes endless. Thanks for commenting.

  12. You're plenty conscious, Rum-Punch Drunk.

    In my head, Legal-Illegal is merely a designation. All the people who split hairs on drugs and drug deaths statistics (some comments above) have no statistics on Marijuana deaths. None. But Marijuana is illegal chiefly because it is designated a drug. To preserve certain vested interests. Can't go into details. My point? the statistics do not justify anything because legal alcohol and tobacco have killed more people and are generally more harmful than illegal marijuana. Let them legalize drugs if they truly understand Freedom. Just my two cents.

    *now following awesome blogger*

    1. Ok, it's impossible to OD on marijuana (tho you'd probably be comatose for about a week - lol) nevertheless we know that it contains many carcinogens and that smoking anything is harmful to the lung tissue, which is very sensitive. Therefore it is highly likely given the huge numbers that that use, that there are many deaths, but that these are hidden under the umbrella of tobacco related cancers.

      Plus the correlation between htc (and hallucinogens in general) and harm to mental health - tho predisposition is a factor to an undetermined extent at present - as I stated above, harm is more than just death.

      So it would be wrong to say that Marijuana as well as being medicinal (which of course it is - for glaucoma, m/s, joint and period pains, side effects of chemo etc.) is not also harmful.

      All this notwithstanding, as I stated above, I do not believe the the war on drugs is being or can be won. All it has done so far is amass victims. We need a new, less punitive and more therapeutic approach. And the tax money to fund it could come from the revenue of drug sales which now go to organised crime. With a few million to spare, most likely.

    2. Thanks for your comments and for following Untonyto

  13. Tough subject. Good presentation of some reasons for and against making drugs legal. As we know, long term use of tobacco and alcohol are bad for human consumption, but they can be legally obtained. And I do believe that if drugs are legalized, more people will experiment with them and the consequences will trend in a similar direction. Since all (alcohol, tobacco, and drugs) are harmful, as long as alcohol and tobacco are legal and drugs are not, the arguments for legalizing drugs will continue.

  14. nice in forming blog rum puch,
    a lot of interesting things to know,

  15. God1 I'm going OD! Your comments are remembering me of my Criminology classes.Which I top by the way.Look i'm not going to argue with your point of views. One thing i want to know...I always wanted to know.
    If somebody is not addicted to drugs..say it,addicted with porn, marshmallows or even Tea! Would you ban everything?

    Yes i've seen, people addicted with coke" not he drug coke" you will laugh at me, with Coca Cola. Two months without it, he died.Treatment with medication , alternatives or not,.He fucking died.I'm not taking the side of drugs.Never I will.
    It will be a never ending flea, biting and biting.
    How many will you save? I've been on the streets for 7 years.
    I've seen what you will never have imagine.Its pain, its heart breaking.
    I'm an optimist but, i wonder for how long, will you drive with a car that's not yours???

  16. Stats.We can only do statistics.two died! 36% died. that's all. Can you snatch away the needle, the fumes, the powder from them? Bring me one A-Team.Just bring me one, who really can.I think we can start slowly from our neighborhood first, but while doing this happily, there would be millions out there pushing that needle into their veins..

  17. Hello Sykes. Thanks for participating. Drugs will always be a hot issue to deal with and I'm not sure if there will ever be a right solution that solves everything (as you can see from this topic). When I hear the news on TV, it sometimes seems that as we go one step forward we move 2 steps back.

    I can imagine the stuff you have also seen on the streets and it must be heart-wrenching. I use to be part of a group who use to go out late to feed the homeless on the streets, those days I will never forget.

    Thanks again for your comments.


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