Monday, 20 December 2010

Prohibition: Stop screeching.

Those with an interest will have noticed an odd observation, the fact that former drugs ministers, who are now safely out of the limelight, have a habit of condemning the prohibition policy they once so staunchly advocated. The latest is Bob Ainsworth, who of course has been barracked from all sides, but that doesn't mean he's wrong.

I've already written about the case for prohibition, which is all to rarely never given a fair hearing simply because of the screeching from the likes of the weekly edition of Mein Kampf (known by its publication name of the Daily Mail) about people being too 'soft' on drugs, and how it's likely that one day an immigrant with a knife who is high on smack will give you cancer. That really would be their dream headline. But in actuality it's not about being hard or soft, its about being smart or stubborn and stupid.

The idea that banned drugs are safely away from kids on the streets is ridiculous, it's insultingly easy to get drugs on the street, illegal or not. The only difference illegality brings is that in order to get the drugs gangs become involved. This jacks up prices (leading to a rise in crime to fund habits), knocks down purity to make bigger profits (leading to much greater health risks) and means millions around the world are caught up in the crossfire from turf wars.

I've already done detailed posts on the case for prohibition, as has the far more qualified Johann Hari, but that's not the point of this post. You don't have to think drugs should be legalised to agree that we at least need the debate, so that both sides can make their case.

As soon as Ainsworth came out and simply asked for a debate on the issue of drug legalisation we had one Tory say he was not just wrong, but 'dangerous', and Labour's John Mann criticise him for wanting nothing but an 'intellectual debate'. We're in a sorry state of affairs when wanting an 'intellectual debate' is something to be criticised.

I understand why party leaders would want to keep well away from his views, admittedly they don't resonate with the majority of the public, but surely much of that could just be down to the fact that we're never allowed a real debate on the issue. Disagree with him by all means, but don't start with the hyperbole in order to shut him up, we need more people like Bob Ainsworth with a backbone around or we'd never discuss anything controversial.

When I talked about prison reform, and why prison manifestly does not work for many people, I mentioned at the end how, surprisingly, the last person to cut prison numbers significantly was not a namby-pamby liberal at all, but Winston Churchill. And so it gives me a little hope that, when safely out of the limelight, another MP from the backbenches asked the then Labour government to discuss with the UN the possibility of legalisation and regulation of drugs. He added, "I ask the Government not to return to retribution and war on drugs. That has been tried, and we all know that it does not work."

The young hotshots name was David Cameron, whose personal views clearly differed from the political viewpoint he's now forced to espouse as Prime Minister. Let's hope he has the kind of steel we haven't seen from him or his deputy as yet and whether he decides to let the country have a genuine debate on the subject.

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