The costs of drugs

The report said the combined effects of crime, health and costs relating to drug prohibition policies leave the taxpayer with an annual bill of £16.785 billion a year.

In contrast, it estimates that legalising and regulating all drugs would cost just £5.951 billion a year, therefore saving the public some £10.834 billion.

And the Home Office response?

"The legalisation of drugs would not eliminate the crime committed by organised career criminals; such criminals would simply seek new sources of illicit revenue through crime. Neither would a regulated market eliminate illicit supplies, as alcohol and tobacco smuggling demonstrate."

Quite true….but rather missing the logic of the argument. Having drugs as illegal does\’t stop them being supplied. We accept this logic with tobacco and alcohol: better to have it legal, regulated, purity checked, than underground and unseen.

Exactly the same logic applies to drugs and as the report shows, we\’d all save money if drugs were indeed legal.

53 comments on “The costs of drugs

  1. The costs of policing might go down, but it’s the cost to society of having millions of people hooked on harmful drugs (and the subsequent effect it has on them and their families) that will always tip the scales against legalisation in the long run IMHO.

  2. Millions of people ARE on drugs already. Sheesh!

    I have to ask this question: are the prohibitionists just thick, or is there some hidden reason for their beliefs they don’t want to tell us about?

  3. It’s worse than that, prohibition is actually counter-productive: “Prohibition did briefly pay some public health dividends. The death rate from alcoholism was cut by 80 percent by 1921 from pre-war levels, while alcohol-related crime dropped markedly. Nevertheless, seven years after Prohibition went into effect, the total deaths from adulterated liquor reached approximately 50,000, and there were many more cases of blindness and paralysis. According to one story, a potential buyer who sent a liquor sample to a laboratory for analysis was shocked when a chemist replied: “Your horse has diabetes.”

    Prohibition quickly produced bootleggers, speakeasies, moonshine, bathtub gin, and rum runners smuggling supplies of alcohol across state lines. In 1927, there were an estimated 30,000 illegal speakeasies–twice the number of legal bars before Prohibition. Many people made beer and wine at home. It was relatively easy finding a doctor to sign a prescription for medicinal whiskey sold at drugstores.

    In 1919, a year before Prohibition went into effect, Cleveland had 1,200 legal bars. By 1923, the city had an estimated 3,000 illegal speakeasies, along with 10,000 stills. An estimated 30,000 city residents sold liquor during Prohibition, and another 100,000 made home brew or bathtub gin for themselves and friends. “

  4. Letters from a tory…

    The quote in the post did say “combined effects of crime, health and costs relating to drug prohibition policies”

  5. “The legalisation of drugs would not eliminate the crime committed by organised career criminals; such criminals would simply seek new sources of illicit revenue through crime.

    The supply of gangsters is surely linked to the size of the market for gangsterism. If you remove drugs, probably the biggest segment of their business, then the number of employees in the sector will fall.

    Overall the level of crime would fall. Even though in the short term, those whose work experience was gained in drug dealing would try to develop new business areas elsewhere. Over time the attraction of being a gangster would decrease, leading to less young people choosing it as a career.

    Likewise legalise the whole sex industry thing and crime would really shrink.

  6. Sorry, but the ‘legalise drugs and crime will shrink’ is a pretty crap argument. Legalise murder and crime will shrink is just as valid – and we’d probably save a lot of money on trials, police time and prison.

    First though, let’s double check the figures in the report. It’s written by Transform, a body devoted to legalising drugs to some extent or another. Of course they might be the only organisation that has never cherry picked or spun ‘facts’, but then again maybe not.

    If somebody could:
    a) convince me that legalisation would slash the access to drugs that teenagers have now
    and
    b)prove that a trial legalisation would have specific defined benchmarks involving safety/access to drugs/addiction rates/government spending (no, of this wouldn’t be an opportunity for boondoggles and mission creep)… and prohibition would be returned if these benchmarks were not met
    … then I’d support it – and I suspect a lot of other people would too on that basis.

    Tim adds: Fortunately the experiment has already been conducted. In Portugal. See here:

    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/04/02/portugal/

  7. “Sorry, but the ‘legalise drugs and crime will shrink’ is a pretty crap argument. Legalise murder and crime will shrink is just as valid – and we’d probably save a lot of money on trials, police time and prison.”

    Not at all sorry, but the comparison isn’t valid. Murder is something that in and of itself is wrong. Drug use (ingesting some substance) is not in an of itself wrong. How can it be, who’s business is it but that of the ingester. Unlike murder, it is not the act itself which is undesirable, but the supposed consequences that follow from the act. The justification is that prohibition mitigates these indirect harms. But seeing as it is clear to any clear thinking individual that prohibition, far from mitigating the negative side effects of taking drugs, enhances those negative side effects dramatically, it is clear prohibition should be lifted.

  8. “Sorry, but the ‘legalise drugs and crime will shrink’ is a pretty crap argument. Legalise murder and crime will shrink is just as valid”

    No, it isn’t just as valid. One is a consensual activity and the other is non-consensual violence against a person. When homosexual activity was legalised, crime shrank. That’s a better though inexact comparison.

  9. To think that organised gangs will move on to another illegal activity is absurd. They will move on to the next activity that provides the greatest gain regardless of legality, period. Currently drugs are the biggest. Legalise prostitition and that will not really be open to them.

    Banking? Running as an MP?

    No, drugs are bigger and being upsold specifically BECAUSE they are so valuable as a direct cause of them being illegal. Drugs are being pushed to minors for the same reasons.

  10. Before any legalisation, can someone please draft the regulations that will accompany the newly legal drugs? i.e. for each specific drug (and possibly for any common combinations?), the rules on quality standards, where and when usage is allowed, employment rights, remaining restrictions on use for certain professions, etc. Rather than focus on the general principle, I would prefer to see those proposing legalisation to consider more the day-to-day practical realities of how individuals and companies concerned will interact with the government bureaucracy. You don’t think it will be a free-for-all do you?

    With respect to crime, obviously crime will shrink if drugs are legalised, as possession is currently a crime, never mind dealing. The question is will the other criminal acts we incorrectly associate with illegal drugs shrink? I think probably yes, but by nowhere near as much as people think.

    the next activity that provides the greatest gain regardless of legality, period.

    Yes, people/weapon smuggling, extortion, fraud, armed robbery, kidnapping, theft, terrorism etc. In other words the things many such gangs are already doing.

  11. If you’re against legalising drugs, would you like to see alcohol criminalised as well?

    By any metric it is one of the most dangerous drugs, causing not only addiction and death in the long-term user but extreme anti-social affects in the occasional user, including violence and murder. In comparison, ecstasy or cannabis are about as serious as Night Nurse.

  12. …not forgetting that many illicit drugs are things that even an addict could cope with if they had a secure supply.

    Even heroin/diamorphine is, biochemically speaking, relatively harmless (less damaging than alcohol to the body, say), and an addict can keep to a fairly normal, productive, life if he or she does not have to spend all day “doing the business” just to ensure the next hit.

    But who, in UK politics, is going to be prepared to have a mature debate on these issues? I always laugh ruefully when I hear the Home Office’s new-ish mantra in defense of classing MDMA as class A – “there is no safe dose”. This for a drug that has been used many times in legitimate health trials and which, when it was scheduled in the US, the judge in the case that led to its prohibitioin specifically recommended that it not be put into the highest schedule since that would be the equivalent of saying that there was no valid medical use for it when the case heard evidence of the benefits it was seemingly ringing to many difficult trauma cases in tests.

    But no – “there is no safe dose” is all they have to say about it. Once again, “there is no safe dose”. As if repeating this with no evidence whatever will make it true. Prohibition kills. Supporters of prohibition need to know this, or be accused of supporting a murderous policy in itself – which goes well beyond any reasonable person’s understanding of the rights and roles of the state.

  13. Ed – the problem with your request for specific regulation proposed is that the current systemn cannot deliver that in prohibition either – it is always reactive and the underground chemists are always one step ahead.

    Designer drugs come out all the time which are unclassified because as yet undiscovered as recreational use substances and so on. Yet these do not even have the “benefit” of the thousands, in some cases, of years’ worth of documented use. Some of them are likely even more dangerous, we just don’t know because they are under the radar.

    I suspect I’d rather have an opium problem than be hooked on the mix of Toilet Duck and Kerosene (who knows) that passes for substitutes. Making regulation difficult will perpetuate this market in under the counter substitutes.

    However, many of the most popular illicit drugs are either natural products (like hash) or are misused regulated pharmaceuticals. So much research is already done, contraindications already known and so on, so labelling many would be relatively unproblematic because it is already done.

  14. Jock, I’m not advocating regulation for its own sake – we have far too much generally in this country. But we do need some, so as you said it would be nice to have a mature debate on these issues.

  15. To think that organised gangs will move on to another illegal activity is absurd.

    Not necessarily, it might be that there is a reward inelasticity to gangsterism. One of the insights of Freakonomics was that there wasn’t much return in being a foot soldier in a drug gang, and that those who were did it for cultural or lifestyle reasons. While the kingpins may be entrepreneurial enough to move on to other, legitimate businesses, it’s equally possible there are core of losers who’d be involved in petty criminality regardless. At the very least that’s an unknown.

  16. I would have no problem legalising drugs if we also made users pay for their own healthcare.

    Speaking as a someone with long experience of the northern soul ‘counterculture’, I can assure you that there are an awful lot of men (generally they’re men) in their late 40s and early 50s who are now dropping down with heart attacks, strokes and hepatitis which are directly linked to their regular use of amphetamines, the hep. coming in where they were injectors rather than swallowers.)

    I’d also like to see the end of any government-funded support for addicts (especially bearing in mind that heroin addiction, and specifically the pain of withdrawal from it, is, essentially, a myth).

    In short, if there was a caveat emptor approach, fine.

  17. “I would have no problem legalising drugs if we also made users pay for their own healthcare.”

    They probably already do. It’s called “tax”. We pay rather more of it than we need to given the quality of healthcare we actually receive.

    I suspect what you meant was that they pay for the additional health risks. But before you go any further down Illogical Road (first left after Hypocrisy Street), please tell us why mountain bikers, motorcyclists, the overweight, smokers and countless others shouldn’t also pay for the additional risks to their health?

  18. While the kingpins may be entrepreneurial enough to move on to other, legitimate businesses

    Many of the worst gangs are already involved in other criminal activities. They may also already have legitimate business interests. From their perspective, these are symbiotic: the legitimate can help launder the proceeds of the illegal, while the reputation arising from the illegal activities helps discourage competition to their legitimate businesses.

    why mountain bikers, motorcyclists, the overweight, smokers and countless others shouldn’t also pay for the additional risks to their health?

    Smokers certainly do pay for the additional risks to their health. Motorcyclists too, via insurance.

  19. Kay-

    “are the prohibitionists just thick, or is there some hidden reason for their beliefs they don’t want to tell us about?”

    The Temperance Movement is a religious crusade, and always has been. They prohibit because of moral disapproval, and for no other reason. While we waste time arguing cost benefit analyses, they sit by unmoved. To them, it’s the equivalent of doing a cost/benefit analysis of the prohibition of baby buggery.

    They don’t care what the actual effects of policies are. They don’t care about addiction rates, crime, violence or anything else. They simply have an absolutest moral position that everything they believe is not spiritually nourishing should be illegal. Those who support them on the basis of the argument from harm are dupes.

    As the Womens Christian Temperance Union put it-

    “moderation in all things healthful;
    total abstinence from all things harmful.”

    Even the good things must be rationed, to prevent an attack of the vapours!

    The crusade against fun is an anglospheric invention, borne out of the evangelical revivals of the early 19th century that created what we call “Victorian Values”. Nowhere were these pietist protestants more wildly successful than the USA, home of alcohol prohibition, which succesfully imposed a worldwide drugs prohibition which has become morally hegemonic.

    But let’s be clear here. This is nothing to do with costs, benefits or harm. It’s just what happens when lunatics gain power.

  20. “Smokers certainly do pay for the additional risks to their health. Motorcyclists too, via insurance.”

    I notice you selectively quoted just smokers and motorcyclists (ignoring mountain bike riders, the overweight and the many others even you can think of).

    If you’re going to selectively quote and then twist the facts on how motor insurance works to fit your belief system then I think we’ll just assume that you lost the argument.

  21. I notice you selectively quoted just smokers and motorcyclists (ignoring mountain bike riders, the overweight and the many others even you can think of).

    Yes, you’re absolutely correct about the overweight and cyclists in general.

    If you’re going to selectively quote and then twist the facts on how motor insurance works to fit your belief system then I think we’ll just assume that you lost the argument.

    I don’t consider mentioning the specific tax paid by smokers to be irrelevant to the debate. The opportunity to tax what are currently illegal drugs is one of the arguments used to support legalisation (though not so much by the Transform report).

    On motor insurance, if a car driver or motorcyclist is badly hurt in an accident that does not involve another vehicle (e.g. a wrap-around-a-tree accident), will the NHS not try to recover some of its costs from the insurance company?

  22. Thanks for your amusing response, Kay Tie.
    As it happens, in principle I have no difficulty whatsoever in people paying for the healthcare they use.
    By this, I mean that in a perfect world I’d get rid of the NHS and introduce health insurance for all but the poorest.
    In general terms (leaving the ‘poorest’ aside for the moment), this takes care of everyone you mentioned – the mountain bikers and the motorcyclicts etc – I think?
    In 2009, there is absolutely no penalty to damaging yourself (I speak as someone who has damaged himself in many ways, many times, and as someone who has no philosophical objection to drug use or self-harm).
    (In fact, the truth is – spend time on a sink estate – the people who contribute the least to the NHS are often among those doing the most self-harming.)
    Under a health insurance system, health insurance companies could charge a higher premium for mountain bikers, or motorcyclists, or anyone else they chose, if they wished.
    Equally, they could charge a higher premium for crackheads, say – or they could just say, stuff it, and let people take crack if they wished (which I think is your position?).
    Whichever health company did the latter would soon be out of business, I suggest.
    Why? Because as I said – from real world experience – I can tell you that drugs really do kill and disable people.
    I think that’s fine if the people themselves take responsibility for all the fun they have when they’re off their faces.
    I have no problem with people taking drugs (or mountain biking themselves into an early grave, if you prefer), I just don’t see why I should pay for it.
    There is a lacuna, of course – those who fall back on the state, that ‘all but the poorest’ section.
    Crack-wise, they would just be out of luck.
    If you take crack, as a grown up who can’t afford medical care, you don’t get free state medical care. Sorry about that.
    (I think one side-effect of this approach would be to make some people grow up.)
    I would allow mountain biking, and I can see the illogicality of that.
    But it seems we have to draw a line somewhere and I’d draw it between cocaine and cycling.

  23. There are really two different arguments to be had: whether to stop drug-use and whether to ban it. Unfortunately, most people are still convinced that banning things works, so insist on seeing the two arguments as one and the same.

    The key thing about drug prohibition that sets it apart from other crimes is the dramatic effect of supply and demand. The price of drugs fluctuates dependent on just how difficult it is to supply them, which means that, the more difficult it is to supply them, the more profitable it is. And what that means is that all the money we spend on enforcing prohibition is money spent on increasing the profits of dealers. Every time the narcs announce another record haul of heroin, all that happens is that the price of all the heroin they didn’t find increases — twice: once to compensate the trafficker for his loss and then again to reflect the increased scarcity and risk in the market.

    And that, Doug, is the key difference between criminalising drugs and criminalising murder. If you give the police’s homicide divisions more money and more manpower, they will probably catch more murderers, but the murderers they don’t catch won’t benefit in any way from that — their incomes won’t increase. That’s just absurd. But that’s how it works with drugs. The more money we spend on fighting drug supply, the more money the traffickers make. We may as well save the police a lot of bother and simply give taxpayers’ money to drug cartels.

    Anyone who believes that we should stop drug-use should really support an end to the current system.

  24. “My humble opimiom is the same as Letters From A Tory`s”

    I can’t quite make out what you said there. Did you say that your humble opium is the same as LFAT’s?

  25. Kay Tie – “Millions of people ARE on drugs already. Sheesh!”

    Well, hundreds of thousands. But would the number go up or down?

    ChrisM – “But seeing as it is clear to any clear thinking individual that prohibition, far from mitigating the negative side effects of taking drugs, enhances those negative side effects dramatically, it is clear prohibition should be lifted.”

    Sorry but it is not clear to me. Can you explain why you think this? You assume that most criminals are “forced” to steal because of their “addiction” do you? If so, why?

  26. Ian B – “The crusade against fun is an anglospheric invention, borne out of the evangelical revivals of the early 19th century that created what we call “Victorian Values”. Nowhere were these pietist protestants more wildly successful than the USA, home of alcohol prohibition, which succesfully imposed a worldwide drugs prohibition which has become morally hegemonic.”

    And yet China, which is not only not puritanical but also not even Christian, long pre-dated the Americans in their campaign against Hard Drugs and opiates in particular. The Chinese were demanding prohibition and international supply side reduction while the fledging Republic was wet behind the ears.

    So how do you explain this?

    Oh wait, you don’t. Because your whole argument boils down to an undergraduate-like cry of “Fascist”.

  27. Jock – “Even heroin/diamorphine is, biochemically speaking, relatively harmless (less damaging than alcohol to the body, say), and an addict can keep to a fairly normal, productive, life if he or she does not have to spend all day “doing the business” just to ensure the next hit.”

    And yet every single “addict” is someone who has chosen a life of crime. Knowingly full well what the consequences of addiction are, they have not just once but many times over the course of several months, sought out a drug dealer, a friend with the equipment and the knowledge to inject, and they have actively chased down a habit.

    Which suggests that it is a life style choice and not a medical condition.

    The problem here is you persist in seeing these users as helpless little lambs who are passive victims to whatever nasty things people like me hand out to them. Rid your mind of the concept of addiction. It does not exist. Get over the idea that even if there were minor symptoms of ceasing use that these cause their behaviour. It does not. They choose to be users because they like the lifestyle. The lying, the crime and the rest of it simply come to the surface – but existed there before.

    So, sure, if only users did not enjoy “doing the business”. Then giving them drugs might help them stop. Or alternatively, if they did not want to steal my stuff, they could stop on their own and get a real job.

  28. “They choose to be users because they like the lifestyle.”

    I choose to drink wine because I like the lifestyle. If the new breed of puritans banned it, I would probably break the law and smuggle it in from France, with a hearty “fuck you” toast to people who wished to stop me. Just as millions of Americans did in the 1920s. The same is true today of cannabis smokers. What right do you have to stop them?

  29. Try this on for size; Buy the entire Afghan opium crop. Give away free to addicts via NHS, working on a reducing scale as the number of addicts reduces through the natural wastage of overdosing. Wean Afghan farmers off Opium farming as it becomes progressively less profitable. Apply similar policy to Columbian Cocaine crop. Free trade agreements to make other crops more financially attractive.

    Pro’s; Cuts down on the money supply known to subsidise wars and terrorism. Petty crime level drops as addicts no longer have to resort to theft to subsidise their habit. Removes incentive for pushers in lower life quality areas, thus removing or significantly reducing the source of new addicts. Fewer pushers means Heroin gets less commonplace. Fewer addicts and pushers mean eventually less Heroin etc on streets. Fewer lives screwed up long term. Low relative cost.

    Cons; short term surge in addict mortality. Resultant emotional cost to families with who have an addicted family member. Near permanent moral outrage from professional busybodies (but what’s new).

  30. Kay Tie – “I choose to drink wine because I like the lifestyle. If the new breed of puritans banned it, I would probably break the law and smuggle it in from France, with a hearty “fuck you” toast to people who wished to stop me.”

    Hence the need for prisons.

    But the question is not whether you would break the law or not, but whether you would prostitute your body and mug the small and weak for your daily dose of Beaujolais. Those that would, I would suggest, have something seriously wrong going on in their brains.

    ” What right do you have to stop them?”

    I can respect a Fight-for-your-Right-to-Party argument. But in fact we do stop people doing things all the time. Given your past postings I am sure we would agree a lot of those laws are stupid, but the only intellectually coherent positions here is that the law bans nothing that does not harm other people (and arguable drugs do) or the law bans what the public wants it to. I would guess you are down the Nothing end.

    Bill Sticker – “Try this on for size; Buy the entire Afghan opium crop. Give away free to addicts via NHS, working on a reducing scale as the number of addicts reduces through the natural wastage of overdosing.”

    You are still stuck with this quaint idea that “addicts” want to give up their addictions, that there is a medical treatment for what boils down to fun. There is not. If we prescribe heroin I am sure they will not buy much, but if you cut down on their doses, they will buy more. They are users because they want to be and like it. Not because they have to.

    By the way, if there is a natural wastage through overdosing, which would be hard to do if it is prescribed, why not stop wasting time and shoot them all now?

    “Wean Afghan farmers off Opium farming as it becomes progressively less profitable. Apply similar policy to Columbian Cocaine crop. Free trade agreements to make other crops more financially attractive.”

    Except the minute you go in to buy the Afghan opium crop, every peasant from Istanbul to Manila will be planting opium. The problem is that there is not a fixed amount of any crop. You make it legal and profitable, more people will grow more.

    “Petty crime level drops as addicts no longer have to resort to theft to subsidise their habit.”

    They don’t have to “resort” to anything now. The fact is they like stealing things and by and large they get away with it. Why would you think they would stop? Why do you think that people who have chosen this life have not actually and literally chosen this life? In full knowledge of what it involves?

  31. “Petty crime level drops as addicts no longer have to resort to theft to subsidise their habit.”

    I don’t consider burglary and muggings to be petty crimes.

    They don’t have to “resort” to anything now.

    I agree, and it is strange to see those advocating legalisation from a libertarian perspective to simultaneously hold the view that the burglars and muggers are poor souls forced by circumstance to commit these crimes, and that all will be well if a nice nanny-state hands them some free drugs along with a fat benefit cheque to cover their other needs.

  32. “Hence the need for prisons”

    Hence the need for a constitution that protects minorities against the tyranny of an oppressive majority.

  33. So Much For Subtlety-

    “Because your whole argument boils down to an undergraduate-like cry of “Fascist”.”

    Thanks for that dismissal there, SMFS. The reality is that international drug prohibition is driven by the US government under the power of its Temperance Movement, and always has been. Whatever the Chinese may have done is neither here nor there. It isn’t them that created the prohibitionist system, nor them that ruthlessly enforces it at the international level.

  34. “I don’t consider burglary and muggings to be petty crimes. “

    So… legalise/regulate, then stop the courts from treating “funding a habit” as some kind of mitigating factor. Indeed, being under the influence of drugs when committing a crime of this nature should be a aggravating factor – sentences should INCREASE if the perpetrator is under the influence.

    It demonstrates that the public has greater need of protection from the individual concerned.

  35. I should be clear – there is a (plausibly) libertarian argument here.

    If you can use drugs without feeling the need to go and mug people, why do you need to be stopped?

    If you feel the need to go and mug people, why should we care what makes you do it? It’s the crime against the person that is the issue, not the drugs.

  36. No response from Kay Tie, I see. No surprises there.

    So Much For Subtlety said:

    “You are still stuck with this quaint idea that “addicts” want to give up their addictions, that there is a medical treatment for what boils down to fun.”

    Spot on. ‘Addiction’ itself as a medical problem is a myth (as is withdrawal – as many studies show, withdrawal from heroin is no worse than a slight cold).

    As for addiction, when Mao announced (obviously due to the pernicious influence of all those American temperance-pushers) that all heroin addicts in China would be shot if they didn’t cease taking heroin – miraculously, millions of them, er, ceased. Overnight.

    Although this is not a policy I would personally advocate (the shooting), it proves that addiction is not medical in nature.

    It’s hard to see how Mao could have ‘cured’ epileptics by the same means.

    Once again: we should not legalise drugs because they do harm to people – UNLESS those people are prepared to pick up the pieces of their own harm, in which case, fill your boots.

    (And you cannot pay for the harm through tax because a) many of the users are not and will not be tax payers and b) it would push up the cost of the now-legal drugs to the point where a black market developed. So attack the healthcare end of it. If Kay Tie wants to get off her(?) face on crack, let her – only she shouldn’t expect to come crying to the doctors when she needs a new set of heart valves.)

  37. Ed – “it is strange to see those advocating legalisation from a libertarian perspective to simultaneously hold the view that the burglars and muggers are poor souls forced by circumstance to commit these crimes, and that all will be well if a nice nanny-state hands them some free drugs along with a fat benefit cheque to cover their other needs.”

    The background I come to this from is a fairly hard libertarian one. Why else would I be here? Which meant that I rejected the concept of addiction totally back when I also rejected prohibition totally. If we cannot say that any individual is in control of his or her own mind, where does that leave freedom? People are not addicted, they are weak. The solution is not to pander to their weakness but insist that they act like adults and control themselves. Or not. But either way, stop whining about it.

  38. “No response from Kay Tie, I see. No surprises there.”

    I’m afraid you wandered off into a treatise on how healthcare should be funded. Although I agree with you on a bunch of the points you raise, it went a bit off-topic.

  39. Kay Tie – “Hence the need for a constitution that protects minorities against the tyranny of an oppressive majority.”

    Sure. But no one has so far mentioned the need to amend the Constitution to protect our right to snort gak. I might consider voting for it if someone did. But so far no one anywhere in the world seems to think it is necessary. Which means people living in society as part of a community need to respect the norms and laws of that society. Or consider the alternatives.

    Ian B – “Thanks for that dismissal there, SMFS.”

    Nothing brings out grown up discussion like being called a Puritan. And American too!

    “The reality is that international drug prohibition is driven by the US government under the power of its Temperance Movement, and always has been. Whatever the Chinese may have done is neither here nor there. It isn’t them that created the prohibitionist system, nor them that ruthlessly enforces it at the international level.”

    But the Chinese did play a massive role in the growing prohibition movement – at least as strong as America, if not more so. The example of China was before everyone’s eyes. After all prohibition was something Britain signed up to before it banned opiates because the Chinese shamed them into doing it.

    You don’t have to be a puritanical Protestant to think prohibition is a reasonable response.

    Cleanthes – “So… legalise/regulate, then stop the courts from treating “funding a habit” as some kind of mitigating factor. Indeed, being under the influence of drugs when committing a crime of this nature should be a aggravating factor – sentences should INCREASE if the perpetrator is under the influence.”

    But the more that drugs are considered a medical problem, the less they considered are an aggravating factor. No one is blamed for blurry vision if they have cancer. So if they are a free choice, why should they be legal?

  40. “All heroin addicts in China would be shot if they didn’t cease taking heroin – miraculously, millions of them, er, ceased. Overnight.”

    A news piece from 2003:

    “ERGU, China — One boy’s sister was crushed by a train after she pumped heroin into her veins and passed out on the tracks. A young man became an addict in the city; his parents carried his body home to this village in a box. The father of two girls overdosed, and their mother is hooked. Heroin-related tragedies are as common as the dried twigs that locals scavenge and burn to stay warm in this hardscrabble ethnic enclave in Sichuan province, along China’s new drug trail.”

    Or if that’s too emotive, how about:

    “China faces substantial drug abuse problems that appear to be worsening with time. Opiate dependence is a major threat to the public health and social security of China because of its devastating medical effects, its impact on risk for HIV/AIDS and criminal behaviors, low rates of recovery and high rates of relapse.”

    (“Opiate addiction in China: current situation and treatments”, 2005)

    Clearly even a totalitarian communist dictatorship doesn’t have enough police powers to enforce prohibition.

    Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to follow the Chinese into Hell. But then you probably can’t handle the moral implications of allowing people to enjoy themselves how they see fit (funny how your morals don’t extend to preventing needless harm).

  41. Key Tie: “I’m afraid you wandered off into a treatise on how healthcare should be funded. Although I agree with you on a bunch of the points you raise, it went a bit off-topic.”

    I didn’t wander into anything. I said if you want to legalise drugs, fine, but make people pay for their own healthcare.
    You raised the issue of ‘mountain bikers’, and I responded.

    Re your response to my point about the Chinese, er… what IS your response?

    I said Mao stopped an awful lot of people taking heroin by either shooting them or simply by threatening to shoot them. Therefore, this proved that heroin ‘addiction’ was not a medical problem, because you can’t cure arthritis by threaning to shoot people.

    I didn’t say this was good, or that Mao’s policies were still in operation in, er, 2003. So you quoting stuff from the internet from 2003 to attempt to make an entirely different point seems odd.

  42. “I didn’t wander into anything. I said if you want to legalise drugs, fine, but make people pay for their own healthcare.”

    And I said that we don’t do that for other kinds of self-inflicted injuries. And you said that the activities that you approve of would be covered and that the ones you disapprove of would have to be paid for (twice).

    Then you wittered about how the healthcare should be funded. I chose not to response because you were being boring.

    Then you wittered about addiction being a lifestyle choice, as if a lifestyle choice is a bad thing (which it apparently is when people choose things that you disapprove of). Again, boring.

    Your “arguments” are facile and boil down to “people should behave as I think they should”. Go and look up “tautology” in the dictionary and give us a break.

  43. Ah, you’re one of those people who doesn’t deal with arguments or answer questions or even make points, but just shouts louder 🙂

  44. “Mao stopped an awful lot of people taking heroin”

    Well, I heard he upped steel production and created a workers paradise. But I don’t believe either of those assertions for a second, either.

  45. Kay Tie, with reference to your earlier comments, did I say that the doses would be measured? There was nothing to be read ‘between the lines’ in my previous comment.

    To clarify; give the addicts as much Heroin or Cocaine as they want, to be taken at point of distribution and if it kills them, tough. Let them take the big escape. It’s their life to do with as they please, and no amount of coercion can force them to go cold turkey. They’ll only cheat. It’s in the nature of an addictive personality.

  46. One thing people are overlooking is the tremendous interest, on all sides, of the status quo being maintained. For example the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has about 5,000 employees and a 2 billion a year plus budget. That’s before you count the huge sums that are expended in housing the prisoners this “War” creates. On the other side of course, the illegality of drugs makes for huge profits for the traffickers. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas, the War against the War on drugs is going to be a long one.

  47. China’s culture is massively authoritarian and conservative; the concept of ‘individual rights’ barely exists there and anyone proposing libertarianism would be laughed out of the room.

    Therefore, it’s not a very good example of ‘somewhere which is prohibitionist despite not being run by puritan lunatics’.

    On the ‘if you threaten to shoot people they stop being addicts so addiction isn’t real’ question, I’m fairly sure that if people with arthritis were shot, measured arthritis incidence rates would indeed fall.

  48. Bill,

    > did I say that the doses would be measured? … give the addicts as much Heroin or Cocaine as they want

    OK, fair enough, but what did you mean by …

    > Give away free to addicts via NHS, working on a reducing scale

    … then? What’s the reducing scale, and what does it apply to?

    John,

    Paul Merton said that his aunt gave up smoking by pouring a pint of petrol over herself every morning.

    More seriously, a better example than arthritis would be TB, because that is exactly what Mao did to eradicate TB in China.

    Ian,

    > the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has about 5,000 employees and a 2 billion a year plus budget.

    True, but they’re all in law-enforcement. No reason to make any of them redundant, really, as long as burglary and rape and carjacking and so on still exist. Indeed, my argument for legalising drugs is that we should stop spending money on making criminals richer precisely so that we can spend that same money on crime-fighting that actually works. Given current public feelings about crime, “We’ll stop wasting all this money and we’ll get those police officers working on making your streets safer instead of harassing junkies” is an emminently vote-wining platform, I’d’ve thought.

  49. there is no intellectual or practical integrity in prohibition. The most ridiculous application of this dumb, deluded doctrine is against cannabis.

    It really is time that this hopeless policy against a benign, natural herbal product was stopped. Hemp is one of the most ecologically friendly, sustainable crops in the world. As regulated cannabis it would pull the rug from underneath a great swathe of criminality and produce billions in additional tax income. As biofuel, building materials, fabrics and cattle feed it could help to revitalise agriculture and many other businesses.

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/cannabis/

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