Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Barack Obama drops 'war on drugs' rhetoric for needle exchanges

Barack Obama drops 'war on drugs' rhetoric for needle exchanges | guardian.co.uk

The Obama administration signalled today that it was ready to repudiate the prohibition and 'war on drugs' approach of previous presidents, and steer policy towards prevention and 'harm reduction' strategies favoured by Europe.

David Johnson, an assistant secretary of state, said the new administration would embrace policies supporting federally funded needle exchanges. The aim, he said, was to establish a policy based on public health needs. 'This will result in a policy that is broader and stronger than the one we had in the past,' Johnson said on the sidelines of a UN drug strategy conference in Vienna.

I suppose this is a start, but they need to bring down the entire structure of prohibition and the criminality that structure creates.

Will more people use drugs? Perhaps, but it's not really hard to get drugs if you really want them now. Portugal has decriminalised possession since 2002 and the policy seems to have been a success.

On the whole I think relatively low harm drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and mushrooms should be legalised and taxed. They should be sold at fixed strengths in regulated shops. Such "good drugs" would destroy the market in fake and over-strength compounds, not to mention the criminal enterprise around them. In the UK at most of Europe at least, despite higher penalties on the books, it's fairly unlikely that mere possession of these drugs would currently bring about a prison sentence. In the US the situation is some states is insane with hundreds of thousands of people arrested and imprisoned each year.

The case is harder to make with heroin/morphine/other opiates. Here I think sale should probably remain illegal, but declared addicts should be allowed maintenance amounts on prescription. This would at least reduce level "getting a fix" crime, but probably would not dismantle the international crime rings. Such rings might, however, make so much less money that they would wither. I suspect there are only a limited number of people who would even want to use heroin. After all, codeine is available over the counter in the UK, and it is possible to remove the APAP/Paracetamol from bought pills, but fairly few people do.

Cocaine is the hard one. Here there is no question the that the drug is dangerous, and there is probably not much individual resistance to the drug. In other words, a huge number of people would try and would like cocaine. But it's equally true that the War on Drugs on cocaine is causing the post political destabilistion in much of Latin America, and now some African states, not to mention huge amounts of violence in the US and somewhat less violence in Europe. I cannot make my up on this - I see the case for continuing prohibition, but it may be that the social cost in Latin America and Africa is too high. There might be case for legalising cocaine as well.

1 comment:

Antinomian said...

Debaters debate the two wars as if Nixon’s civil war on Woodstock Nation did not yet run amok. The witch-hunt against the half-a-million strong witches assembled in August 1969 hasn’t been and can’t be good for America, the world-leader in percentile behind bars. If we are all about spreading liberty abroad, then why mix the message at home? Peace on the home front would enhance credibility.

America should stop throwing good money after bad. The witch-hunt doctor’s Rx is for every bust to numerate a bigger tax-load over a smaller denominator of payers. Spend more on prisons than on schools. My witch’s second opinion is to grow your own. More consumer discretionary dollars will stimulate the rest of the economy when they are not depleted by prohibition’s black market.

Only a clause about interstate commerce provides a shred of constitutionality. The policy on the number-one cash crop in the land is no taxation; yes eradication; but money to frustrate enforcement grows on trees. The authors of the Constitution never intended to divert tax revenue to outlaws. America rejected prohibition, but its back. Swat teams don’t seem to need no stinking amendment.

The demonized substances never had their day in court. Nixon promised to supply supporting evidence later. Later, the Commission evidence didn’t support, but no matter. The witch-hunt was on. No amendments can assure due-process under an anti-science law that never had any due-process itself. Science hailed LSD as a drug with breakthrough potential, until the CSA (Controlled Substances Act of 1970) halted all research. Marijuana has no medical use, period. Lives are flushed down expensive tubes.

The RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) makes an exception to the CSA allowing the Native American Church to eat peyote. A specific church membership should not be prerequisite for Americans to obtain their birthright freedom of religion. Denial of entheogen sacrament to any American, for mediation of communion twixt the soul and the source of souls, violates the First Amendment.

Freedom of speech presupposes freedom of thought. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate a governmental power to embargo diverse states of mind. How and when did government usurp this power to coerce conformity? Politicians who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction.

Common Law must hold that the people are the legal owners of their own bodies. Socrates advocates knowing your self. Mortal law should not presume to thwart the intelligent design that molecular keys unlock spiritual doors. Those who appreciate their own free choice of personal path in life should not deny self-exploration to seekers. The right to the pursuit of happiness is supposed to be inalienable by government.

Simple majorities in each house could put repeal of the CSA on the president’s desk. The books have ample law on them without the CSA. Americans are already liable for damages when they screw-up. The usual caveats remain in effect. Strong medicine requires prescription. Employees can be fired for poor job performance. No harm, no foul; and no excuse, either. Replace the war on drugs with a frugal, constitutional, science-based, drugs policy.