Friday, 15 May 2009

Prohibition: War without end

A comments article written by Levent Akbulut for the Leeds Student Newspaper.

Fri 3rd Oct, 2008 - Fri 10th Oct, 2008.

Will revising governmental drug policies lead to a decline in related crime?

The US imposed policy of prohibition, the war on some people who use certain drugs, i.e. the War on Drugs has in my view not just been a catastrophic failure but a complete disaster for society.

Nations are being torn to shreds by policies which license the growth of essentially wild plants containing psychoactive compounds to one group of individuals to be sold to pharmaceutical companies, whilst systematically destroying the same crops being grown by other farmers under the false pretext of maintaining social order in consumption countries. The reality of the situation is of course that production nations are often consumers themselves and that exactly the same compounds found in coca leaves, opium poppies and cannabis buds, including many of the derivatives and analogues produced from the naturally occurring compounds are sold and licensed as medicines in the UK.
Coca, Opium and Cannabis are highly versatile plants with not only pharmacological properties but are highly valuable food sources. To put this into context, flavourings from Coca are still put in Coca Cola, poppy seeds are scattered over buns and cannabis (hemp) seed is seeing a revival as a more environmentally friendly and nutritious alternative to Soy.
In 1998 the UN's ten year drug strategy officially committed 150 nations (including the UK) to eradicating all coca, opium and cannabis from the planet by 2008.
What we are seeing all over the world is the establishment of an incredibly untenable bureaucracy where some of the most dangerous drugs are aggressively marketed as social lubricants or as stress management tools. It is as if they, alcohol, tobacco and the various tranquillisers prescribed like sweets by doctors are not drugs!
This is not a criticism of the activities of individuals making a personal choice which affects no one but themselves. But rather a cry out for a collective wakeup call to put things into perspective with regards to drug policy.
Drug policy should not be based upon populist sound bites but rather sound scientific evidence, something we are watching the government ignore over and over again.
So while we are poisoning and burning these fields of what are essentially weeds growing in South America, the Caribbean and Afghanistan- without due consideration to the environment, the individuals working on these farms and neighbouring communities, what are we actually achieving?
By creating a very lucrative market for some of the most dangerous substances on the planet without any regulation or controls, while the government claims these are controlled substances, we have gifted the supply and production of certain drugs to criminal syndicates. These gangs do not just exist in Columbia or Afghanistan, but involve an intricate network of individuals from the farmer to the smuggler to the street dealer to the user and within these unregulated structure we are witnessing the rapid growth of anarcho-capitalist communities. Whenever we remove a street gang several more dangerous gangs move in to fill the gap in the market. The government can not control a problem it has allowed to exist by going in all guns blazing, we have successfully reduced the number of smokers and drinkers through widespread public health campaigns but we are failing to get the message across with regards to illegal drugs. After all the activity the user is partaking in is illegal, would locking up an alcoholic really work? This is despite years and years of lobbying by the alcohol and tobacco industries.
Part of this so-called public health message is a Dob-in-a-Dealer cam­­paign being tried out in Leeds at the moment, a separate campaign suggests that passing a joint to a friend for free counts as dealing. This only leads to building mistrust between individuals in a community. Drugs may be illegal but discussing a reform of drug policy should not be. In order to go back to the basic principles of the intention of drugs policy which has always been reducing the harm of drugs to society and to the user, we must subsequently abandon this irrational obsession of a 'drug-free' world and end our biblical preoccupation with prohibiting certain lifestyle choices.
With the world economy in turmoil and many individuals struggling financially we have to genuinely start reconsidering if prohibition is actually working and move towards an evidence based sensible drug policy.

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