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Tony Grist

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The War On Drugs [Jul. 20th, 2007|09:31 am]
Tony Grist
The war on drugs is stupid.  Mainly because it's a war on human nature. The need to get out of one's skull is a fundamental  human need- only a little less fundamental than the need for sex. Like all great Puritan enterprises- like Prohibition for instance- ithe war on drugs was doomed from the start.

By criminalising drugs we criminalise millions of overwise law-abiding citizens- and give thousands of not-so-law-abiding citizens a vast international business to get stuck into. Worse than that, we criminalise the economies of entire nations- eg Colombia and Afghanistan. 

Has the war on drugs achieved anything? Not that I can see. If anything it's been counterproductive. Our society is awash with the damn things. 

I'd legalise everything. Yes, I know drugs are dangerous. So is whiskey.   And, yes- OK- I also know this is pie-in-the-sky talk and we've got ourselves into a position where what I'm advocating is politically unthinkable so I might as well shut up.

But it's not as though drugs have always been criminalised. The war on drugs is a 20th century lunacy. It's akin to all those other 20th century lunacies- like facism and communism- that tried to change the human animal into something it isn't by  action of the state. The Victorians were up to their eyeballs in laudanum and it didn't stop them running an empire and writing great novels. 

In the past people were kept in line by the attitude of their peers.  Just because it was legal didn't mean everybody was doing it.  There was a stigma. Dr Watson didn't think it was clever of Holmes to mainline cocaine.  But at least addicts were pitied not banged up. 

I don't like drugs. I prefer to keep my head clear. For the record I've smoked dope and it made me cough and I've dropped acid and it made things go all funny. 

On the other hand if it hadn't been for the drugs Coleridge wouldn't have written Kubla Khan and Lennon wouldn't have written I Am The Walrus and Philip K Dick wouldn't have written anything.  Drugs do interesting things to the mind. It's sort of accepted that it's OK for artists and musicians to take drugs because it can be filed under research. It's OK for tribal shamans too. 

I'm not saying we should all take drugs. I'm saying we should all have the right to take drugs if we want to. Drug taking is a matter of personal morality. And for the State to intervene in matters of personal morality is despotic and futile.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: frumiousb
2007-07-20 12:26 pm (UTC)
The Victorians were up to their eyeballs in laudanum and it didn't stop them running an empire and writing great novels.

Just to play devil's advocate, how much of this was because drugs were only available to either elites or criminals?

I'm not okay with the war on drugs, find it counterproductive and kind of silly. But on the other hand, I'm not sure about how I would feel about a "right to take drugs" in a broader sense. I'm sure that this makes me a bad libertarian, but then I knew that. It goes beyond personal morality if you have a substance so addictive that it impacts families, or causes people to steal to support their habits. Then it is a larger issue, and only government is positioned to address the larger issues.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-20 02:37 pm (UTC)
In the 19th century drugs that are now illegal were available to anyone who could afford them. Laudanum- for instance- which is opium dissolved in wine- was sold as a medicine. Unless I'm very much mistaken Queen Victoria herself had a considerable laudanum habit.

We already tolerate alcohol and tobacco- both of which are addictive, dangerous to health and the first of which causes violent and anti-social behaviour in some people. I agree there's a problem with all addictive substances, but making them illegal doesn't make the problem go away. Prohibition is the perfect model. It didn't get rid of booze, merely created a situation in which organised criminality flourished and grew very rich and powerful.
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[User Picture]From: frumiousb
2007-07-20 10:43 pm (UTC)
I completely agree with your point about prohibition, just saying that I think that it isn't true that it is purely a matter of personal morality.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-21 09:23 am (UTC)
No you're right. I'm being simplistic there. Society is concerned and needs to have checks and balances in place. I think drugs should be controlled and policed the way alcohol is.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2007-07-20 12:57 pm (UTC)
It isn't the drugs itself that bother me as much as the drug economy and what it funds.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-20 02:37 pm (UTC)
Decriminalise drugs and you take the drug economy out of the hands of the criminals.
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2007-07-20 04:02 pm (UTC)
You don't see anything a little simplistic about this?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-20 04:29 pm (UTC)
Well yes, of course.

I guess we'd hand the hashish/cocaine/heroin industries over to the tobacco and pharmaceutical companies.

The difference, with it being out in the open, is there'd be some measure of accountability....
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[User Picture]From: karenkay
2007-07-20 04:45 pm (UTC)
That's the part that I think is simplistic--and a little naive. But I watched "The Insider" not that long ago.

I have no faith that their hands are any cleaner than illegal drug dealers.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-20 05:55 pm (UTC)
You could well be right. Heigh-ho.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-07-20 01:09 pm (UTC)
How did you come to be so rational and level-headed?

Good post.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-20 02:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks.

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From: (Anonymous)
2007-07-20 01:14 pm (UTC)
I'm saying we should all have the right to take drugs if we want to. What if you're too young to be fully aware of the consequences of your choice? Perhaps yes, if fully aware, consenting adults wish to pop pills habitually, the state shouldn't have the right to stop them. But there's one key aspect: most drugs are addictive, and children aren't capable of deciding their moralities for themselves when they're young. Which is why you need parents to intervene, kantian ethics, etc, and in this case the govt seems to be playing nanny? Perhaps drugs should be treated like smoking, with a legal age limit and the works.

Still, the results of youths taking drugs and getting hooked are horrifically permanent; perhaps the government would rather compromise on individual freedoms to protect the young - you can't deny that complete banning works far better as a measure of deterrence than imposing an age limit. Just look at smoking, drinking, underaged sex.
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[User Picture]From: jenny_evergreen
2007-07-20 01:37 pm (UTC)
I don't know about that; the vast majority of kids that I knew who did those things also tried pot at least, if not acid.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-20 02:42 pm (UTC)
But banning doesn't work. Kids get hold of drugs just as they get hold of booze and smokes.

I agree that there should be some controls- but I think they do more to salve the conscience of society than anything else.
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From: (Anonymous)
2007-07-20 02:52 pm (UTC)
Probably a difference in cultures. I'm from Singapore; kids get drunk and pollute the air but that's about as far as it gets. Could be due to the prohibitive nature of drugs here.
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From: (Anonymous)
2007-07-21 01:40 pm (UTC)
No, banning doesn't work and what concerns me is that all drugs get dumped into the same category: illegal. There is insufficient distinction between what is harmful by decree - as is largely the case with marijuana - and genuinely harmful by nature, like methamphetamine for instance. It's too easy for kids to dismiss all that they're told about drugs as just so much propaganda, which undoubtedly at least some of it is.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-07-21 01:41 pm (UTC)
Oops. Forgot to log in.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-21 04:47 pm (UTC)
Yes. This post was prompted by the news that our new prime minister is thinking of upgrading marijuana to class "B"- which means you can get a jail sentence for possession. I think this is a retrograde step.

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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-07-22 02:45 pm (UTC)
Ah, I hadn't heard that. Maybe Brown wants to score points with the US by dragging the UK's drug policy down to our level? Jail sentences for possession aren't that uncommon over here in the States.
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From: sculptruth
2007-07-20 02:46 pm (UTC)
Just the terminology itself is damaging--"war" on drugs? War implies an instant enemy, which implies conflict, and so on. I fully believe politicians devised this language for the express purpose of creating a class issue.

I agree that decriminalising drugs would do wonders for taking the power out of the hands of the kingpins and also take away the mysterious allure of a prohibited substance for the young.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-20 03:13 pm (UTC)
It's like the "war on terror". How can you declare war on a strategy? It's like declaring war on cavalry charges.
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[User Picture]From: huskyteer
2007-07-20 03:02 pm (UTC)
And Ken Kesey wouldn't have written One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - this alone puts me on your side.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-20 03:17 pm (UTC)
S'right!

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[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2007-07-20 08:15 pm (UTC)
I'm not saying we should all take drugs. I'm saying we should all have the right to take drugs if we want to. Drug taking is a matter of personal morality.

This sounds great, until you realize that the person taking the drugs could be the person driving the bus/car you're riding in or that you're on the same street as. The person taking drugs could be flying the plane you're in.

I don't know about you, but I don't want my bus driver or pilot drunk, doped, tripping or anything else.
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[User Picture]From: shullie
2007-07-21 09:05 am (UTC)
but we have laws on that already.(here in the UK).. it's illegeal to drive under the influence of drugs and drivers can be stopped and then tested if the police belive they are under the influence of drugs - just as they do alcohol. Indeed they test many young people for both when stopped, as you can smell dope just as well as alcohol.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-21 09:26 am (UTC)
Exactly!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-07-21 09:25 am (UTC)
Yes. I'm being over-simplistic. I think drugs should be controlled and policed the way alcohol is. Smoking pot should be legal- but driving under the influence of pot should be a criminal offence- and so on and so forth.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2007-07-21 01:49 pm (UTC)
Depends upon the drug, I suppose.

I live next door to a Vietnam vet who flew choppers during the war. He says he smoked one joint on the way to the mess hall and another after the morning briefing before strapping himself into the cockpit. He says that, if anything, marijuana enhanced his skills and certainly made the awful business of killing people more bearable - something for which he still feels guilty.

On the other hand, even small amounts of alcohol can get you killed in the air. My father, when he first learned to fly, had drinkies once with his flight instructor before taking off. Two beers and he almost missed the runway. Never again.
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