Should Drugs Be Decriminalized?
Should drug users, probably among them people you know and love, automatically be labelled as criminals?
I have known people who have died through substance abuse, and I have known people whose lives have been ruined by substance abuse, either their own or someone else's. So I am well aware of the harm these things do.
But, on balance, I do not believe decent people should be criminalized because of their addictions, whether they be things you stuff up your nose, in your gob or in your veins.
Quite ordinary people, people who would not normally be thought of as criminals, break the law by refusing to accept that the State should dictate what they may
By getting a criminal record, even if they do not receive a custodial sentence, drug users can suffer life-long consequences - it can ruin a career, break up families, result in immigration problems and mark a person for life.
And, most important of all, a prohibition on drugs has not stopped the problem escalating over the last fifty years, so it just DOESN'T WORK! There has to be a better way.
I am not advocating that production and large-scale sale of drugs should be decriminalized, only that drug users should not be criminalized
Unfortunately it is part of teenage rebellion to be curious about banned substances, and to want to experience the effect of mind-altering drugs. They should be warned of the dangers, helped if and when they need help, and brought back to normality without becoming criminals for what is, in effect, a social problem or disease, not a criminal activity.
Several countries have now decriminalized marijuana
Portugal decriminalized drugs in 2001
Decriminalization in Portugal has not led to increased drug-taking. Rather the opposite, and money which was formerly spent on enforcement and prevention is now spent on healthcare. Because people don't have to hide their drug problem, they are more likely to come forward and ask for treatment when drug-taking becomes a medical problem. Earlier treatment means fewer health issues, and fewer people getting AIDS from shared needles.
Uruguay is the first country in the world to actually legalize marijuana as opposed to merely decrminalizing it. The proposal became law at the end of 2013 and anyone is permitted to grow marijuana, sell it, or consume up to 40 grams a month of cannabis.
There has been much bloodshed resulting from illegal cannabis trafficking, including murderous drug wars and violent attempts at Government enforcement. Uruguay considered that the way forward is to license the drug and put it under Government control. with the focus on public safety and health,
The states of Washington and Colorado and others followed suit.
Contrary to what people think, the Netherlands has not legalized marijuana, but merely permitted the possession of small amounts, and not enforced the law against certain "coffee shops" where marijuana is available.
Users are not prosecuted in the UK for possession of small amounts of cannabis, but it has not been legalized.
Critics point out that even if cannabis is not always harmful in itself, it is often the gateway to the use of more harmful drugs. And there is no doubt about it, the use of marijuana can lead to psychotic changes in a few susceptible people, even if the majority are not affected. I do actually know someone who developed schizophrenia which was believed to have been caused by heavy cannabis use in his early teens, but of course there could have been other causes, such as hereditary factors.
Cannabis is also known to contain certain medicinal compounds which are prescribed in some countries, such as Canada, to alleviate the symptoms of multiple schlerosis, Tourrette's syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and stress.
This is what Avaaz, the Human Rights Organization said:
Avaaz, 24th May 2011
"Avaaz is a world human rights organization who use the power of publicity, via Internet, the Media and face-to-face to influence Governments to do the right thing. In a matter of hours they can get their members and friends to support a world-wide petition of one and a half million signatures. They are recognized by Governments as a power to be reckoned with.
"50 years of prohibition has completely failed to reduce drug use, and instead has fueled violent conflict, and devastated lives around the world. Politicians know this and know alternative approaches work, but won't change policy, afraid they will appear 'soft on drugs'.
"For 50 years current drug policies have failed everyone, everywhere but public debate is stuck in the mud of fear and misinformation. Everyone, even the UN Office on Drugs and Crime which is responsible for enforcing this approach agrees -- deploying militaries and police to burn drug farms, hunting down traffickers, and imprisoning dealers and addicts - is an expensive mistake. And with massive human cost -- from Afghanistan, to Mexico, to the USA the illegal drug trade is destroying countries around the world, while addiction, overdose deaths, and HIV/AIDS infections continue to rise.
"Meanwhile, countries with less-harsh enforcement -- like Switzerland, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Australia -- have not seen the explosion in drug use that proponents of the drug war have darkly predicted. Instead, they have seen significant reductions in drug-related crime, addiction and deaths, and are able to focus squarely on dismantling criminal empires.
"Powerful lobbies still stand in the way, including military, law enforcement, and prison departments whose budgets are at stake. And politicians fear that voters will throw them out of office if they support alternative approaches, as they will appear weak on law and order. But experts all agree that the most sensible policy is to regulate, and many former drugs Ministers and Heads of State have come out in favour of reform since leaving office. Polls show that citizens across the world know the current approach is a catastrophe and momentum is gathering towards new improved policies, particularly in regions that are ravaged by the drug trade.
"We have a chance to enter the closing chapter of this brutal 'war' that has destroyed millions of lives. Global public opinion will determine if this catastrophic policy is stopped or if politicians shy away from reform. Let's rally urgently to push our hesitating leaders from doubt and fear, over the edge, and into reason".
Update June 5 2011
We did it! Last week Avaaz Executive Director Ricken Patel hand-delivered our over half a million signatures to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, world leaders and the global media in New York. At the meeting Ban Ki Moon heard our call to action and agreed to create a new UN task force to develop a comprehensive approach to drugs and organized crime. This is a major step forward towards ending the war on drugs as the approach will include a public health, education and prevention focus. We will continue to push to make sure this senseless and brutal war is ended. "
Countries Where Marijuana Is Legal For Medical Purposes In 2017:
- Puerto Rico
- Czech Republic
Countries Where Marijuana Is Legal Or Decriminalised In Some Form in 2017:
- In USA: California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington
Read the article below - what an idiot! - South Africa's Intelligence Minister seems to have been a bit short of intelligence about his own wife's criminal acti
It says much for the legal system in South Africa that a minister's wife was actually brought to justice within the law, so it's not all bad news, because at least it shows that everyone is equal under the law, with no special privileges for those in high positions.
- SA minister's wife gets 12-year jail term - 6 May 2011 - BBC News
Sheryl Cwele, the wife of South Africa's intelligence minister, has been sentenced to 12 years in jail for drug trafficking. "Either the minister knew about his wife's operation to distribute hard drugs and benefited from it, or he did not know abou
- BBC News 6 June 2012 - Poor Awareness of Cannabis Risk
"Experts are warning that the public dangerously underestimates the health risks linked to smoking cannabis. "
It's not only drug users themselves who think that use of mind-altering drugs should be decriminalized
There is an argument for saying that, like alcohol and cigarettes, they should be legalized and taxed.
Note the difference in terminology: If drugs are merely decriminalized, users would no longer be prosecuted but suppliers could still be punished. Whereas, if they are legalized, that means there are no penalties for anyone, users or suppliers. Big difference.