There are so many good reasons to decriminalise drugs.
Doing so would overnight weaken those gangs that make a fortune from hawking narcotics and who prop up their shady empires with menace and violence.
You want obscenely rich drugs lords to be taken down a peg or two? Then legalise the shit that they currently sell on the sly. Break their violent monopolies by allowing everyone, even your pharmacy, to push this stuff.
Decriminalisation would improve the quality of drugs, too. Taken out of the murky world of Afghan poppy farmers and Mexican gunmen, drugs would finally have to reach a certain standard. Imagine crack coming with a quality kitemark.
The consumer would have the right to recompense if the drugs he/she bought were found to contain things they shouldn’t. Concrete dust mixed in with cocaine, perhaps. Or brown sugar masquerading as MDMA. You never hear of a Mars bar being made of mud, say, instead of chocolate. That’s because Mars bars are sold on the open market, so there are standards.
I love the idea of having a drugs ombudsman, a bloke in a suit to whom one could take all one’s drug complaints. “Sir, this LSD failed to freak me out even a little bit. I demand the seller gives me a refund or some better fucking pills.”
There’s another reason to decriminalise drugs, one which overrides even those, the most important reason of all. Which is that individuals — sentient, free-willed, autonomous adults — must be free to decide for themselves what they put into their bodies.
Freedom of speech is being curtailed. Nannies, nudgers and naggers are everywhere, fingers cocked for wagging, telling us off for doing things they disapprove of.
Just as grown-ups should be free to say and see whatever they want, so they should be free to smoke or shoot-up anything they want.
It is 150 years since John Stuart Mill, the greatest of English liberals, wrote his seminal work On Liberty. Read it. It’s online. You’ll find no better outline for why liberty is the most important human value of all.
In that slim, stirring tome, Mill described the ideal of freedom beautifully: “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”
There it is: your argument for decriminalising drugs. If we’re serious about freedom, about moral independence, then we must let everyone be ruler of himself, to be his own government, in essence, especially when it comes to what goes through his mind and what enters his body. Drugs should be decriminalised out of respect for the long fought-for ideal of self-government.
Mill said there is only one instance in which the authorities may interfere in people’s lives and prevent them from doing what they want: when their actions threaten to harm someone else: “[T]he only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”
And when someone takes drugs, he’s not harming anyone. He might harm himself, maybe, but he doesn’t damage anyone else’s body or mind or security.
Anti-drugs folks will yell: “Yes he does! When he buys drugs he props up a vast, corrupt black market in which violence is rife!” But that’s down to the criminalisation of drugs, not the taking of drugs. It is the hysterical bans on certain narcotics which give rise to a hidden, unstable market of drug-selling, not the man at a music festival who shoves a line of cocaine up his snout. He’s not harming anything, except maybe his own septum.
Across the West today, freedom is in a state of disrepair. There are clampdowns on late-night boozing and price hikes on alcohol to pressure people to stop hitting the bottle (Mill called these “sin taxes”, designed to punish people for the sin of having fun). Freedom of speech is being curtailed. Nannies, nudgers and naggers are everywhere, fingers cocked for wagging, telling us off for doing things they disapprove of.
The war on drugs should be seen in this vein. It’s part of officialdom’s belief that ordinary men and women lack the ability to govern their own minds and bodies and so must have nice, PC messages pumped into their brains and certain synthetic highs kept out of their bodies.
It’s patronising and infantilising. It’s outrageous, in fact. If we’re serious about freedom, about individuals being sovereign over themselves, then we must insist that we be free to think and say and take whatever we want. The decriminalisation of drugs would be a wonderful leap forward in the centuries-old fight for greater human freedom.