It is desperately sad that sometimes our own supporters rely on a slippery slope argument mentality; that if we legalise marijuana today, maybe ketamine or MDMA will be next. This is the very thing that our witless and moralistic opponents use to thwart these grassroots efforts pertaining to the legalisation of “soft drugs” such as cannabis and MDMA. Though decriminalisation would only be a stopping point towards a penultimate goal of outright legalisation and regulation of all narcotic substances, it presents itself as a shimmering ray of hope to many of us and perhaps is the only way our agenda will be accomplished; a painful and grinding war of attrition with morally outraged ignorance intentionally inspired by insidious profiteering forces which benefit from drugs remaining illegal. The illicit drug trade is the second largest sector of the entire world’s economy; the largest segment of which consists of cannabis but the most destructive is heroin and cocaine. The movement to legalise drugs has to be waged on the very two fronts that the prohibitionists have; morally as well as socio-politically. In other words, stigma against all drug use, whether it be the smoking of cannabis or the intravenous injection of heroin and crack cocaine needs to be done away with totally. This can only be accomplished by shredding away the garb of irrationality and ignorance that prohibitionists have proliferated to blind us all.
My heart goes out to those who genuinely back this detestable war because of a vague and misguided desire to better the world. They are simply enslaved by a divisive and devious campaign set in place to protect the status quo. This becomes evident when we look at the reverse of the establishment. Take the pharmaceutical industry for instance; which in essence has a financial choke hold over the US government which ensures that many truly harmful substances be wrongfully prescribed to unwitting patients. Take for instance the pandemic of benzodiazepine addiction facilitated by mass media advertising campaigns marketing Valium, then Ativan, then Xanax as effective ‘cures’ for anxiety. These drugs are known and admitted by most in the psychiatric profession to be far more addictive than many illegal drugs including heroin. SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, typically used as antidepressants) are causing a surge in teen suicide rates as well as a generation of people, enslaved to substances that the government deems legal for reasons none other than profit. For instance, the manufacturers of Prozac or Fluoxetine managed to lobby the US food and drug administration to outlaw the sale of L-tyrosine (a health supplement with similar anti-depressant qualities minus any perceivable side effects). Let’s not forget the wave of teenage suicides that the over prescription of Prozac instigated. Meanwhile, children as young as 5 are being prescribed Ritalin by the bucketload,a chemical similar in its structure and pharmacokinetics to cocaine, a Schedule 1 substance in the USA. The level of hypocrisy is disgustingly self-evident.
It has also become obvious that the US is not only allowing but sanctioning heroin production in Afghanistan, whilst locking up street addicts in their own land for possession of grams of severely adulterated heroin, bad for their health by virtue of the ridiculous amounts of violin cleaner, caffeine and paracetamol that it is cut with. The war on drugs is also used as a convenient excuse to back wars overseas such as that against Panama’s Noriega regime. Manuel Noriega who was put in cahoots with Pablo Escobar’s Medellín cartel and done away with on the premise that he was aiding the importation of tons and tons of cocaine into the US. Now, whether it is coincidental or not, it is evident that drugs have directly funded US led global imperialism. It also reaps the benefits off the backs of its own citizens back home by using the very drugs they supposedly do not want in their country to repress minority groups; look at the proliferation of PCP then Crack Cocaine among the African American population across the country.
This acquaints us with the global hegemonic forces we are up against if we are to go ahead with decriminalisation let alone legalisation and regulation of all drugs; first of all, the private prison companies like Serco will be up in arms as most of their non violent drug related offenders will no longer be locked up providing them with what is effectively slave labour (the maximum prisoner’s wage in this country is £20 a week). Thankfully, it seem that this very system of oppression is crumbling economically, as it is bears witness to the backlash of its promises to rid society of a non-existent scourge that supposedly threatens us enough to warrant £3 billion that could go towards education and social services which would prevent disenfranchised and angry teenagers from ever having that first toke on the crackpipe in council estates across the country.
Decriminalisation would simply not be enough as it would effectively allow the lucrative black market to continue doing the very things that drug policy conservatives reel at. The many arguments they posit like the “gateway drug” theory are products of their policy. Althought the majority of drug dealers specialise in one type of drug, less scrupulous dealers are one stop shops selling everything from cannabis to heroin. Those people really do have an incentive to get people addicted to “harder” substances like heroin. One great example of this is the £5 discount most crack and heroin dealers put on buying a dose of each. This serves to get recreational crack smokers physically addicted to heroin in order to ensure their custom.
Lastly, the glamour of drug-taking for some people will simply disappear over time should they become legal commodities just like alcohol and tobacco. Portugal is a good example, its previous heroin pandemic in the 90s has turned into one of the best examples of state-run rehabilitation since all drugs were decriminalised in the country. History also bears us innumerable examples; during the American prohibition more alcohol was consumed per capita than at any other juncture in history since then until the present day.
The final argument for total legalization lies in human rights: farmers in Afghanistan and the Golden triangle can continue to support their families to a better degree as the extortionate middle men are brought out of the picture; allowing for effectively fair-trade cocaine and heroin. Furthermore, people from abusive families who turn to drugs for solace or simply those who are exploratory and curious will no longer be subject to persecution both legal and societal by their peers.
Attitudes need to be changed towards hard drugs just as they recently have towards soft drugs. This is where Re:Vision’s challenge truly lies in my opinion. Winning over the hearts and minds of the populace. The drug law reform movement has already tried appealing to their sense of logic and pragmatism and that has been to some avail, but there is more work to do.