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Saturday, 21 November 2015

How the War on Drugs Destroys Economies

We are taught that in a paternalistic sense, the Government is looking out for our own interests through the illegalisation of drugs. On the surface, this makes sense. We are taught that goods detrimental to our health should not be available as a benefit to society as a whole. We don't want streets littered with addicts and users. We don't want strains on the health system. We want people to act responsibly, respectfully and conform to David Cameron's 'British Values'.

This is what we are taught.

To the unintentionally ignorant, this makes complete sense. Something being illegal means that it is off-limits. No-one will have access to it and no-one can use it. The society will conform to the 'socially acceptable'. 

If this makes sense, why then do we have more people in prison for minor drug offences than for violent crimes in the US? There, we have over 50% of the population of Federal Prisons convicted for drug offenses.

In the UK, it costs £65,000 to actually sentence someone to time in prison. After this, it costs a further £40,000 per year to cover the costs of their imprisonment. Furthermore in the UK, almost 20% of the prison population are there for drug offences, with 55% of prisoners admitting to using drugs in the month before coming under police custody. It is evident that this is very costly for the Government. There is an opportunity cost with this money. It could be spent in other areas, such as the health care system or even drug rehabilitation.

Economically, it makes far more sense to introduce legalisation and regulation. People who want the drugs enough will always find ways to get them. Furthermore, despite legislation, it is extremely easy for those who want to purchase them to purchase them. With regulation, we could introduce age and quantity limits which would mean that quantity supplied is heavily restricted. This would also afford us an ability as a society to track those on drugs in the sense that help and rehabilitation will be there if they need it.

Many drug addicts are not scared of getting caught, but they are scared of asking for help. Government regulation means that they cannot actively seek help in case they are penalised under law. Current legislation restricts available help to those who need it and actually allows a wider supply of substances.

Regulation brings better quality and more tax revenue. Instead of poisonous materials being mixed with common substances, Government regulation could mean that only pure substances are sold, meaning that there are less health issues arriving from this. Furthermore, regulation means tax. In a world of welfare cuts, the Government could actually increase spending whilst decreasing income tax through the use of VAT on these substances.

Studies show that cigarettes and alcohol are far more dangerous than substances such as cannabis. Why then are they legal? For a start, large cigarette corporations fund parties running for election so that when that party gains power, they can implement policy in their best interests. Cigarettes are well known now to cause cancer and a large number of health issues, but are still legal, although heavily regulated. The conservative party in the UK revels each time they lower the tax on alcohol for the 'working man'. They celebrate when they lower the consuming cost of alcohol which can be argues to be an extremely addictive substance. This is counter-intuitive and nothing more than a mechanism to gain popularity.

Many drugs, such as cannabis, have many alternative uses other than those used by those in power to demonize their use. For example, hemp has been used for hundreds of years as a natural material to produce many goods. Also, this drug has been shown in many studies to help with many serious health problems such as cancer and MND/ALS. The reason that this is so well hidden is simple: special interest groups. Large pharmaceutical companies would struggle when such an easy to produce and natural remedy could be sold rather that those companies retailing chemicals, claiming to enhance the human condition.

Personally, I would take neither legal or illegal drugs. That is my personal opinion, but that doesn't shape my political or social views where regulation would bring addiction down, tax revenues up, prison populations down and would also enhance the lives of the entire population.

The figures are fact. 

People from lower class backgrounds generally make use of illegal drugs more than those from more wealthy backgrounds. There are an abundance of reasons for this. People try to escape a reality where no-one should be living. They need an escape, a coping method. When people can't control their situation, they control the only other aspect they can: what goes into their bodies. It is a slippery slope, at first an escape can seem great, useful and harmless. But what happens when the user gets caught in the escape? This leaves them trying to escape the escape. These people get trapped and what happens next? They are caught by the police who use valuable resources in convicting someone who should only ever be helped. resources are wasted because they are not implemented in the right way. This legislation is designed to clear the streets of 'undesirables' who the 1% don't want to see. It's class division in the modern day. This is obviously an extreme example of a limited group, but the effect is the same throughout.

What about casual users? Those who choose to find a release through this mechanism but are caught and gain a permanent police record which will show up on all travel documents, work applications and credit applications. This effectively restricts the person's movements and future prospects to better themselves.

In short, legislation to make drugs illegal can be used to class divide a society, restrict choice and support large corporations.

Again, I personally would not take any drugs or substances, but to me, that doesn't mean that others should be restricted. From the basis of medical research and development and addiction recovery, regulation seems like the most viable option. Lastly, from an economic point of view, tax revenues increase, government spending decreases and society's addiction problem decreases.

If you would like more information on the history of the war on drugs, please visit this (YouTube) link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBpypL2OYwI

Written By J. Stefan Devlin

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