Sunday, 4 April 2010

Lock 'em up and throw away the key!

I love starting blogs with quotes. The award for the best from this week goes to Eric Carlin:

“Our decision was unduly based on media and political pressure.” “As well as being extremely unhappy with how the ACMD (Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs) operates, I am not prepared to continue to be part of a body which, as its main activity, works to facilitate the potential criminalisation of increasing numbers of young people.”

The mephedrone decision “was seen as a quick fix so that the home secretary could be seen to be acting tough on drugs before an election.”

Professor Nutt, who was sacked by Alan Johnson in October 2009, said he was not surprised by Eric Carlin's resignation:

“There's not been proper consideration given to the broader justice and political aspects of making a drug Class B and criminalising maybe tens of thousands of young people.” “I'm not surprised that people think it's all been done for political reasons rather than scientific or health reasons.” (Thanks to the BBC for letting me cut and paste most of that)

So there you have it. The government’s own advisory body condemns the reactionary knee-jerk approach our MPs are taking to mephedrone.

We seem to be happy living in a society where the media decides what class it wants a drug to be, and the scientific advisors are meant to go along with that. If ever you needed an example of how our democracy is controlled by the actions and opinions of big business, there it is.

Now I’m not a signed up member of the “legalise everything” lobby. While we have a classification system, mephedrone needs to be put in there somewhere. But while we’re busy criminalising risk, shouldn’t we ask - “How many people have taken this drug and not died?” If hundreds of thousands are taking it every week, and we’ve only had a possible twenty-five deaths, those aren’t bad odds.

And yes, every death is a tragedy, but it’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that criminalisation doesn’t work. If making a drug illegal stopped people taking it, why, pray tell, do we have heroin addicts, or cocaine users, or all those people happily smoking cannabis? If criminalisation worked, why does the US have one of the world’s worse drug problems and the world’s largest prison population?

Criminalise the suppliers not the users. Educate the users not to take the stuff. Knowing that it might kill you is a far better deterrent than simply being stuck in jail for a few months.

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