- Henry Riley
The War on Drugs Has Failed: It’s Time for Legalisation
The seemingly never-ending debate surrounding the legalisation of drugs is heavily contested; yet the solution is conspicuous. The War on Drugs has left us pondering a clear dichotomy. Either we side with the users, who are frequently neglected and desperately crave guidance, or with the dealers, whom the current system arguably benefits by allowing them free rein to manifestly ruin the lives of others.
However well-meaning and sincere those who favour stricter drug policies might appear, their scrutiny of drugs is misplaced within the debate of decimalisation and legalisation. Commentators and academics who, correctly, highlight the precarious effects of drugs such as LSD, cocaine and marijuana regularly misemploy such expertise. In fact, they undermine the debate by merely evaluating whether a given drug is either dangerous or harmless. Whilst some may ascertain weed, for example, to be essentially harmless, these people are undoubtedly in a minority as the best case for legalisation steams from the recognition of drugs, as Nick Clegg opined, as destroyers of individuals, families and communities. Therefore, to label those in favour of legalisation as ‘pro-drug’ is not only fallacious, but also demonstrably incorrect: they are the very people challenging the status-quo that has allowed the illegal drug trade for fester and thrive within our society for so long.
A further misguided assumption propagated by the anti-legalisation view, is that because alcohol and tobacco – both undoubtedly dangerous substances – are available, proponents of legalisation yearn for the introduction of a third. However, this argument omits the important fact that such substances are already readily accessible. Those who are anti-legalisation seemingly approach the debate from the viewpoint that drugs are yet to be commonplace within society, and thus need urgent prevention though tough legislation. Perhaps this is the reason they consistently underestimate organised criminal networks which, as highlighted by the Deputy Director of the National Crime Agency, often facilitate child abuse and modern slavery. A step in the right direction, though by no means a comprehensive solution, would be to direct profit away from such abhorrent organisations, and instead towards the National Health Service. This money could be spent productively on addressing the, often disturbing, effects of drug-use, and advertising schemes designed to expose harms incurred from using such substances.
To advocate against legalisation is to ignore the existence of drugs within our society, and support the dangerous manoeuvres of criminals at the expense of vulnerable users. Similarly, it is to ignore the pain of those with debilitating diseases who seek to mitigate discomfort through drugs of their own, free choice. The legalisation proposal is not some utopian, hypothetical dream: it is a pragmatic and necessary policy, which will not only quash the repulsive, illegal drug trade, but ultimately save thousands of lives.