The UN on drugs decriminalisation: foetid dingo\’s kidneys

If you\’d like to know why the world is in such an awful state try reading this article. From the head of the UN\’s office on drugs (no, sadly, the office about drugs, not the one actually taking them, the consumption of which would do much to explain this godawful logic) we get the following:

The debate between those who dream of a world free of drugs and those who hope for a world of free drugs has been raging for years.

How excellent, we\’ve started out by framing the entire question the wrong way. We\’ve left out entirely the vast majority who don\’t either dream of or hope for a world without drugs. That vast majority being much more interested in a world in which one can get blitzed with the mind bender of one\’s choice but without either the police shooting up the neighbourhood of being poisoned by the illegal shit with which one is shooting up.

We need to remind ourselves of a basic fact about us shaved apes. We like getting out of our minds and every society ever known has had a legal and culturally approved method of doing so. For most it\’s been some variation on alcohol, opiates (or other interesting plant based substances like peyote, cocaine or, in fact, anything at all that blows the mind of the local medicine man) or cannavis. But in those times and places where those have not been approved of there have been any number of interesting variations: Whirling Dervishes dance to reach the same blissed out state, Holy Rollers use religious ecstasy and chanting \”Om\” for hours on end is simply an inefficient means to the same end, an out of mind, transcendental, experience.

Current international agreements are hard to change. All nations, with no exception, agree that illicit drugs are a threat to health and that their production, trade and use should be regulated. In fact, adherence to the UN\’s drug conventions is virtually universal and no statutory changes are possible unless the majority of states agree – quite unlikely, in the foreseeable future.

Remember this folks, we\’re signed up to an international agreement overseen by twats like this.

Why such resistance to abolishing the controls? In part, because the conventions\’ success in restraining both supply and demand of drugs is undeniable.

Snigger. When the drug of one\’s choice is available within 20 minutes of searching in every town and village in the land, here we have the international bureaucrat claiming that restrictions upon supply are working.

Look first at production. Drug controls slashed global opium supply dramatically: in 2007, it was one-third the level of 1907.

And the harm done by opiates has changed how over that time? Has there been a difference between when the major application methods were smoking it or drinking it (as laudanum) and smoking or injecting it as now? AIDS might be a clue there: but more importantly, back when it was legal what was the overdose rate? The poisoning rate?

My second point is logical: in the absence of controls, it is not fanciful to imagine drug addiction, and related deaths, as high as those of tobacco and alcohol.

Erm, actually, yes, it is entirely fanciful to think that 30% of the globe wants to get off their heads on heroin. Or dope. The numbers who took the stuff back when it was legal were nowhere near that: the near universal availability (despite illegality) leads to absolutely nothing like that rate (the 0.6% mentioned in the article) and the deaths which do occur are related to the illegality, not the drugs themselves.

Even if, say, heroin use, did rise to the levels of \’baccy and booze use, the death rates would still be far lower. For taking pharmaceutically pure heroin with clean water and clean needles doesn\’t actually fry your liver nor cancer up your longs. There\’d be a mass outbreak of constipation, this is true, but that\’s not fatal either.

Drugs are not dangerous because they are illegal: they are illegal because they are dangerous to health.


Snorting coke is dangerous because of the things which it is cut with, the lack of knowledge of the dose and the effects upon the nasal passages. Injection of (Sherlock Holmes and yes, he\’s fictional, but Conan Doyle was a doctor and knew of what he wrote) or drinking of (Coca Cola, yes, really, the original recipie had some) simply doesn\’t carry the same dangers. Similarly, opiates smoked or opiates using clean needles and water just don\’t create those viral diseases, collapsed veins and rotting sores that illegality promote.

Unfortunately, ideology has displaced health from the mainstream of the drug debate and this has happened on both sides of the prohibition versus legalisation dispute.

Yes mate, ideology is, as you say, a problem.

Next is the security question. Drugs pose a threat not only to individuals. Entire regions – think of Central America, the Caribbean and Africa – are caught in the crossfire of drug trafficking. In Mexico, a bloody drug war has erupted among crime groups fighting for the control of the US drug market. The legalisers\’ argument on security is striking, though it leads to the wrong conclusion. Prohibition causes crime by creating a black market for drugs, the argument goes, so, legalise drugs to defeat organised crime. As an economist, I agree. But this is not only an economic argument. Legalisation would reduce crime profits, but it would also increase the damage to health, as drug availability leads to drug abuse.

Facepalm. When I see Fullers and Youngs shooting it out in South London over the control of the all important bitter distribution market then I\’ll take that facile wittering seriously.

Last but not least, there\’s the question of human rights. Around the world, millions of people caught taking drugs are sent to jail. In some countries, drug treatment amounts to the equivalent of torture. People are sentenced to death for drug-related offences. Although drugs kill, governments should not kill because of them. The prohibition versus legalisation debate must stop being ideological and look for the appropriate degree of controls.

Some countries hang drug smugglers. Therefore we must keep drugs illegal in order to stop some countries hanging drug smugglers?

Has this man even bothered to read his own article?

Drug policy does not have to choose between either protecting health, through drug control, or ensuring law and order, by liberalising drugs. Society must protect both health and safety.

Look, \’Tony (you don\’t mind if I call you Tony do you Antonio?) I\’m sorry to have to say this to you, you the international bureaucrat who has dedicated his life to a glorious salary, high pension and decent expense account while protecting us all from ourselves (and a Pony!).

There really are problems out there which do not have solutions. You, as an economist, know this. There are only trade offs.

We have two polar positions, with some possible latitudes inbetween them.

We must start with the basics, humans as they are not humans as some might like to think they are and certainly not as some think they ought to be.

Humans like to toot. Get blitzed, dope and dose up, sedate, stupefy and narcotise, get juiced and in general escape from this vale of tears once in a while.

Faced with this fact we can now outline our two polar positions. We can deny this basic point about our own species, make all such methods of transient pleasure illegal and thus hand over the trade in these addictive products to the thugs with guns chasing the vast profits illegality ensures. We\’ll then spend hundreds of billions a year trying to stop them, kill some hundreds of thousands of our fellow humans as we do so (yes, the death toll from the War on Drugs is of that order, annually) and at the same time deny everyone that basic human right, of acting as they wish as long as they\’re not harming other people.

Or we can accept that however much we look down our Puritan, blue, prodnoses at them the peeps, the hoi polloi, the plebs, rather like escaping from this world we\’ve made for them and simply work out how to allow them to do so with the least collateral damage. Legalise and tax, so that instead of spending hundreds of billions we\’re raising hundreds of billions which we might then use to, oooh, I dunno, abolish world poverty or something. Not kill hundreds of thousands of our fellow humans to boot and even allow people that human right of ingesting as they wish just so long as they\’re not harming other people.

Sure, there are a few intermediate positions, decriminalisation rather than legalisation for example, but the one position we know doesn\’t work is the making what people want illegal one. Which, sadly, is the one you are defending and as at the top, is a good example of why the world is so screwed.

7 thoughts on “The UN on drugs decriminalisation: foetid dingo\’s kidneys”

  1. View from the Solent

    “When I see Fullers and Youngs shooting it out in South London …”
    It conjures a vision of the losers slowly fleeing on a heavy horse-drawn dray.

    [Yes, I know I’ve split.]

  2. I hope you’ve read Ben Elton’s ‘High Society’? Probably the best polemic in favour of legalisation ever written.

    Best line, when the MP protaganist gets accidentally stuck with a needle while doing a ‘fact-finding’ mission and talking to junkies, tells the guy not to push the plunger. His reply “Don’t worry, man, it’s my only hit”. As an addict myself, I loved that line…

  3. “Drugs are not dangerous because they are illegal: they are illegal because they are dangerous to health.


    Well, drugs – even pure and uncut – are dangerous to health, and taking them constitutes risky behaviour. And I speak as someone who, pre-children, indulged every weekend for many years, with no deleterious effect other than a lighter purse and a few wicked come-downs on Sunday mornings.

    The point is, what intervention should the state make regarding that risky behaviour? Criminalise it? Well, that doesn’t work, partly, as you point out, it makes the drugs even more dangerous to health due to cutting etc, and also because society as a whole is damaged by the crime that springs up around it. Also, the inevitable casualties from the risky behaviour (far fewer than the powers that be would have us believe, but still) cost the public purse in both prosecutions and treatments.

    Pigou taxes and licences to sell seem the reasonable answer. Cut out the crime, free people to do as they please, but require them to pay an “insurance” for their risky behaviour, so they don’t cost other people any money.

  4. First, the absurdity of imprisoning someone just for taking drugs. I stress the “just”. Treat them, yes, imprison them? Hatstand.

    Once that basic fact has sunk in, then the whole “war on drugs” can unravel.

  5. Well argued Timmy,

    In fact, when you say Coca Cola used to contain it you’re underselling cocas role in it.

    Merchanise 7 is still a principle ingredient of Coca Cola and is still made from coca leaves which have be “decocainised.” I believe there is a place in New Jersey which is specially licenced to handle coca for this very purpose. Good book by Dominic Streatfeild (yep, spelt that way) called Cocaine which is very informative and entertaining which I would recommend.

  6. “Erm, actually, yes, it is entirely fanciful to think that 30% of the globe wants to get off their heads on heroin. ”
    Are you sure? If so why? I thought that in 19th century China there was 20% who took opium?

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