Recently I posted the first in a series of The Social Meaning of Drug Use blog posts. It was based around the question of why people take drugs, highlighting why different drugs can be used by different people for different purposes, according to various differing social situations. Darryl Bickler, a founding member of the Drug Equality Alliance read the article and was unhappy with the terms ‘illegal drugs’ and ‘illicit drugs’, which conveys a misunderstanding to the reader. As such I’ve asked him to write a short blog to explain why ‘illegal drugs’ do not exist.
"We have been led to believe in their being a ‘War on Drugs’, and even that this is against suppliers of ‘illegal drugs’ and some activists complain that it is irrational to exclude certain ‘legal drugs’. This way of thinking is the result of a prohibitionist propaganda coup; even talking about drug law in these customary terms means that we are starting in the wrong place.
Reformists of drug law are consistently using the enemies’ fake constructs and dogma. Perhaps because drug users are ‘fair game’ in the media, and have suffered for so long, almost anything we imagine being ‘on message’ will do for many. The Drug Equality Alliance focuses on errors in understanding the law before any discussion on policy and how that goes on to affect us all unequally and unfairly. The same errors of legal construction I am referring to here also pervade the activist movement, and that is why many are unwittingly being counter-productive with their communications.
Progress will not come until the intellectual basis of the whole project is factual, coherent and understood. I find myself having to defend what are the facts, and such facts that expose government policy for being irrational, illogical and unsupported in law. The term ‘Legal drugs’ sets up the most obvious concern for us, their corollary, ‘illegal drugs’; both of these expressions are legally meaningless and mask the central untruth behind drug law administration.
The law does not create any such category of ‘legal drugs”. It is entirely misleading claiming that alcohol and tobacco are ‘legal drugs’, as it supports the idea of policy being consistent with law. It is not, despite the jurisdictional facts being made out regarding the harmfulness of these drugs, Government abandoned their powers over drug misuse (and thus the public’s) by declaring them to be involved with ‘legal drugs’. I’m not saying they must ban alcohol at all; the whole starting point is wrong - given that the law is concerned with misuse, then we must assert that an individual’s drug interests in alcohol or any drug are entirely private; the state regulates producers and suppliers of drugs where necessary to ensure safe production and distribution. If a person becomes a problem, and this is through drug misuse, then their drug rights are subject to scrutiny.
To support the myth of ‘illegal drugs’ not only misleads the public that the current regime is mandated in primary law (when it is not), but also obscures that the primary law is already a regulatory instrument intended to steer persons away from drug misuse. Government is blind to this possibility due to the mistaken belief that the law makes some drugs illegal. It confuses people about what is primary law and what is law created through policy. It’s important to remember that using a drug is not illegal in the
Consider the talk about new drugs, coining expressions like ‘the soon to be illegal legal highs that aren’t really legal now anyway’. The tensions that seem to arise around the legalisation / regulation / prohibition debate are meaningless discussions from the perspective which activists seek to engage people with. The ground rules are wrong and pervasive. If the core principles of prohibition are not exposed, then anything less builds greater problems in understanding and only perpetuates the stagnation we experience. I would go as far as to say that they actually communicate the opposite of reform by reinforcing the problems we need to overcome.
You simply cannot regulate drugs; laws control people. Wars against illegal drugs do not happen, wars are fought against people. Policy is sold on a lie based upon what is lost in translation when we talk of ‘illegal drugs’ or even legal ones. The artificial divide between different users of different drugs is not only arbitrary, but actually inconsistent with the primary law – a law where ‘legal drugs’ and ‘illegal drugs’ is unknown."
I’d like to say thank you to Darryl for this, and I hope that we can start to get our heads around some of the finer details of why Illegal Drugs Don’t Exist.
*Disclaimer* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of SSDP UK or it's members.