Opinion Matrix: Drugs should be decriminalised

### Jamie Sims

**The suggestion that criminalising drugs is a sensible approach to the harms of recreational substances has been debunked many times, yet the best case against prohibition is hardly ever made. Even if it reduced usage, prohibition would be an unjustifiable trading of those helped in the developed world for the immeasurably greater number of lives brutally taken in the global south. Sartre wrote that “when the rich wage war it’s the poor who die.” This equally applies to the west’s ‘war on drugs’. **

In Mexico, 60,000 to 100,000 people have died in the horrific carnage of the conflict between drug cartels and government forces. Just this November, 19 mutilated bodies were found in a mass grave, the latest in dozens of such incidents – for those murdered and their relatives the term ‘war on drugs’ is not hyperbole. In South America, drug revenues fund instability by propping up paramilitaries and insurgents, America’s efforts to slow supply disproportionately harm the poor.

In the USA, incarceration of African-Americans for drug-related offences has reached a level that many have called a modern form of slavery. Yet, while so many rot in prison, HSBC was recently exposed as having laundered $881 for drug cartels – no banker has been sent to jail.
It is the poor who are dying in our futile ‘war’ against drugs. It is time to stop this, approach addiction as a public health issue, respect individual autonomy and, most importantly, recognise that our policies have knock-on effects for the rest of the world.

### Joanne Harrower

**It’s becoming a fact that the war on drugs has been one massive flop, so it makes sense that governments are looking to new ways to limit drug usage. Partial decriminalisation encompasses flexible policies that combat gangsterism and an over-powerful drug industry without tacking a bumper sticker on the state that says “we fought a war and the drugs won.”**

Portugal has decriminalised to the extent that no drug possession, regardless of whether its heroin or a hash brownie, carries a jail sentence. This sends a mixed and confusing message that all drugs are the same. It is irresponsible for the state to imply this, and unrealistic to decriminalise all possession. Instead, it should be focused on small amounts; criminal sanctions for this can be replaced by fines and drug awareness programs. This carries a moral benefit as it increases the likelihood of, for example, people growing small amounts of cannabis for their own usage, instead of reliance on the international drugs trade. The practical benefit for the police and courts is less diverted resources towards minor drug offences that are not duly harmful to society.

For too long, drug policy has been treated like one uniform bloc. If enough money was piled into it, the thinking went, and enough harsh deterrents for offenders, drug usage would surely fall. Yet we are still facing 400,000 people a year with serious drug problems. The nuanced approach of partial decriminalisation is a step in the right direction without causing a mass exodus of Telegraph readers and worried parents.

### Sam Crawford
This debate is misleading because what we should really be asking is not “Why we should not decriminalise drugs”, but “why do people take drugs in the first place?” By answering the latter, reasons to the first question become obvious.**

So, what makes drugs so good? The answer is that they allow us to step outside of ourselves, to become uninhibited and ultimately escape from the tough demands of modern life. For many substance users they are a dangerous form of relaxation providing speedy relief from stress and anxiety offering them restored confidence and a less troubled mind.
Ironically it is these benefits that make them so dangerous. They lead me to a simple, but probably controversial, conclusion: nobody taking these drugs is truly happy. If you are comfortable with yourself why try and escape? If you’re calm and can deal with stress, why would you need artificial relief? If you’re completely enjoying an experience why would you need anything to enhance it? The simple answer is you wouldn’t.

So what’s the answer? Easy, do keep drugs illegal but change the sanction. Anybody caught with them should be made to face compulsory treatment because, as proven, there will be an underlying issue. I don’t want to live in a society where we surrender to making these unhealthy narcotics more available. I want to live in one where people have to realise what is making them so unhappy and face up to it; a vision undermined through legalisation.

### Molly Ackhurst

**My opinion on drug decriminalisation is very simple; I think drugs should be legalised because they are not as bad for us as we are made to think they are. **

I am aware of how naive this sounds, but in actual fact the majority of drug related deaths are a result of misuse and overdose. In numerous drug related studies, such as in Philadelphia in the 1920’s and in Switzerland, 1994-97, it has been proven that if people are given pure substances (in these examples the drug used was heroin), in controlled amounts there are no adverse effects. In the Philadelphia study participants health actually improved. What this shows is that by casting drugs to the darkness we are actually creating the problems we wish to avoid. Many people are not turned off by the fact that drugs are illegal, in actual fact this is what makes them more appealing, and resultantly they become a proverbial money making scheme for those who reside in the pits of our society. By legalising drugs, imposing order and control on their creation and distribution, drugs can be brought out of the shadows and into the harsh reality of daylight. I believe that if drugs were explained, the positives as well as the negatives, how to be safe when using them, and what the correct dosages are, numerous deaths can be avoided. As such, not only will our society benefit, but the horrific way in which these drugs are produced can be changed.


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