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Mexico can only be saved if we give up the war on drugs

Decriminalising drugs will put the country’s deadly cartels out of business

By on Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Children hold up a photo of their father, Fernando Quisar, one of 27 farmers massacred by a drugs cartel in May (CNS photo/Rodrigo Arias, Reuters)

Children hold up a photo of their father, Fernando Quisar, one of 27 farmers massacred by a drugs cartel in May (CNS photo/Rodrigo Arias, Reuters)

Luke Coppen, our editor, drew my attention in his Catholic must-reads to this rather sad story from the Brownsville Herald.

Brownsville, which is a place little mentioned in the British media, is a Texas town on the border of Mexico, on the Gulf coast. Just over the border is Matamoros. The glory days of Matamoros occurred in the American Civil War, when, thanks to the Unionist blockade, all Confederate imports and exports had to be re-routed through the Mexican port. Nowadays Matamoros, like most of the towns that sit up close against the US border, is a place tourists do well to avoid. All these towns have a symbiotic union, but not in a good sense, with their American counterparts. The most notorious of them is Ciudad Juarez, which is the Mexican part of El Paso, Texas, an ugly industrial place, making things for export, and the serial killer blackspot of Mexico.

I have never been to Brownsville, but I assume it is much like the rest of America, quiet and law-abiding, and to the people who read the Brownsville Herald, a world away from what goes on in Matamoros, specifically the violent death of an innocent priest caught in the crossfire of the never-ending war on drugs. Yet Matamoros and Brownsville are contiguous places, separated by a border fence, economically interdependent. This drugs war is happening on America’s doorstep.

Poor Mexico, as they say, so far from God, so close to the United States! Poor Mexico indeed. The continuing drug war – summed up here – is costing it dear.

Casualty numbers have escalated significantly over time. According to a Stratfor report, the number of drug-related deaths in 2006 and 2007 (2,119 and 2,275) more than doubled to 5,207 in 2008. The number further increased substantially over the next two years, from 6,598 in 2009 to over 11,000 in 2010.

This is such a depressing story, it is not surprising that it hardly ever makes it into the British papers.

Most people take it as read that every government must make war on drugs. But this tends to overlook the fact that the war on drugs is being lost, and those caught in the crossfire are paying a terrible price for it. Mexico is headed, not irreversibly perhaps, towards failed statedom, thanks to the war on drugs which it is certainly not winning. There are some sane voices who think that we need a change in policy, but these tend to be among retired politicians.

The current policy is not working, but of course a serving politician would commit electoral suicide if he or she were to admit this. The Church, not in the market for votes, can, however, afford to be honest, and I am surprised that we have not heard more from the Church about this. Or perhaps the Church is speaking about it, but it is not getting reported.

My own view, which has developed over the years, is now this: all drugs should be decriminalised, and should be freely available with a doctor’s prescription. If people want to take drugs they should be free to do so, after medical consultation, which would make the dangers clear to them. Moreover, I think that this is a position in keeping with Catholic moral teaching.

In the inter-war years, the United States introduced prohibition. Did this stop people drinking? No. Did it lead to a huge growth in organised crime? Yes. When drink was decriminalised, who benefited? Almost everyone – except the criminals. As with booze, so with drugs. It is time to take this trade out of the hands of the cartels. That is the only way to put them out of business. Meanwhile, while our politicians, who know this to be true, dither, Mexico dies.

  • Christopher Wright

    Having worked with drug users in the UK for over 7 years,I agree completely. In my quiet, ‘respectable’ road in South London, there were 4 drug-related murders in 4 years.

  • Toni Salazar Loftin

    Prohibition doesn’t work–it only drives activity underground, away from any kind of regulation or taxation. Sadly, in the U.S., the legalization position is not politically popular. We can’t seem to recognize our hypocritical stance on drugs–we are the biggest consumers, but our public stance is zero tolerance. Meanwhile, Mexico is being destroyed because the U.S. must have its drugs. 

  • Hughes196

    The world community should put pressure on the USA government to decriminalize drugs. Only when the main consumer of the product eliminates its illegality will the criminal operations cease to exist. Meanwhile, the innocent are paying the price.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry but I cannot imagine for one second that the drug cartels are going to meekly give up their lucrative business monopoly and go back to ordinary jobs even if drugs were legalized.  In any case if you say prescription only, there is still plenty of illegal business for people without prescriptions. One way or another the drugs cartels are going to fight to continue to hold their monopoly and power until they are forcibly stopped.

  • LocutusOP

    Legalising drugs will hardly solve the problem of children being born with underdeveloped brains due to their mother’s drug addiction. It’s not likely to solve the problem of children stealing from their parents and relatives to finance their drug addiction. It’s not likely to prevent overindulgent individuals dying from drug overdoses.

    Since your solution involves a prescription, it’s hardly going to stop the black market of drugs anyway. Besides, today’s doctors have too free a licence to decide on life and death issues, and I’m not sure that giving them more power over humanity is in humanity’s best interest. It would be far better if a doctor’s tasks were limited to only life-saving activities.

    From a moralist point-of-view, I find it difficult to see how you can argue against cosmetic surgery (which you did in a previous posting) and yet take a seemingly approving view of drugs (which isn’t what you’re doing in theory, but in practice the outcome is much the same). Given that drugs defile our body I can’t see how the Church would ever condone anything which normalises the use of drugs, especially since drugs have such high social costs. It’s bad enough that consumption of alcohol – with all its social ills – is taken as acceptable behaviour, but short of claiming that we should allow all forms of behaviour because banning them has its own side-effects I don’t see the net social benefit of decriminalising drugs.

    Writing as one has never taken alcohol or drugs, I view taking these substances as more or less a personal matter. I also don’t view selling drugs as any worse than selling tobacco or guns or alcohol. The question, however, is what is society willing to accept and endorse? If you want to live in a society which accepts and normalises all of ills of drug-taking, and you are willing to live with the havoc this causes on both the unborn and families in general, then by all means it should be legalised. If, however, we wish to live in a society which does not promote behaviour contrary to the dignity of the human person, or which is (ultimately) anti-social, then drugs should remain illegal.

    Your point on Mexico is valid, though. The ‘war on drugs’ in Mexico hardly seems to be helping Mexico in any way – especially since the consumer nations take such a lax view on drug-taking. It serves Mexico no use to see its populace decimated by drugs so that politicians in other countries can take the prevailing ‘moral high ground’ in being ‘tough on drugs’. Really, for Mexico the only option available might be to legalise its cultivation and use, and let the consumer countries reap the rewards of their own sowing. For Mexico then, at least, there might be a benefit (at least in the medium term). For consumer states, I would be very surprised if this proved to be the case.

  • RJ

    If taking drugs is immoral*, doesn’t that make the doctor an accessory (formal or material cooperation?), whatever the legal situation.
    *(CCC2291: “Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offence”)

    Moreover, since, as the Catechism states “the use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health…”, wouldn’t their prescription be against the doctor’s Hippocratic oath (‘first, do no harm’).

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    I am against the consumption of recreational drugs. I think on that we are agreed. What I am arguing in this post is that the best way to deal with the problem is legalisation, and that the current prohibition is counter-productive. If we called off the war on drugs, and opted for legalisation, there is good evidence that drug-taking would fall; at least some of the money saved could be used in rehabilitation and detoxification proggrammes, which are very expensive.
    Re prescriptions  – this is already done with methadone. To prescribe cocaine etc is essentially to create a registered drug addicts programme. The idea is to treat the drug-users as sick and to wean them off their addiction. It would also be of great use, when they encounter further medical problems, to have access to their medical and drug-taking history.
    My fundamental point is still there: prohibition is not working. We cannot go on like this!

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    How else are the cartels going to go out of business? If they could be forcibly stopped, wouldn’t they have been stopped by now?

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    I would not just blame the USA for this…. this is a worldwide problem.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Prescribing drugs to an addict would be harm minimisation; to be preferred to letting him or her continue to obtain the fix off criminals who often sell dangerously adulterated drugs. Yes, drugs are very bad – but as a way to contain them the war on drugs has failed. We need to try something else.

  • LEAP

    Find out why more and more cops, judges, and prosecutors who have fought on the front lines of the “war on drugs” are standing up and saying we need to legalize and regulate all drugs to help solve our economic, crime, and public health problems:

  • RJ

    The ‘harm reduction’ philosophy seems suspicious to me. I think the same justification could be used for legalising abortion (as being preferable to ‘back-street abortion’) or to distributing condoms to prostitutes.

    Or let’s say we criminalise the supply of abortifacients, which might then be supplied by criminals who were not too concerned about the purity of the drug. On the argument you make above, we ought rather to make sure that these could be obtained legally in a pure form from a doctor.

    I think the first question to ask is: is drug-taking an intrinsically evil act? The catechism seems to imply that it is (‘a grave offence’; I assume it is not the circumstances or further intention which makes it a grave offence). In that case, you would be saying: let me help you to commit an intrinsically evil act in a way that does less harm to you. As in: ‘let me help you kill yourself, but less painfully’.

    Or if one wants to express it in terms of harm, one would be saying: ‘let me help you harm yourself, but perhaps a little less than you would otherwise’.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Drug taking cannot be an intrinsic evil – look at the catechism definition you quoted. What makes drug taking good or bad is the crircumstance and motive i.e. is it therapeutic or not?

  • RJ

    Yes, it looks like you are right. So you would be arguing that, since drug addiction is an illness, the drug to which the person is addicted could be administered as therapy. Would this view be held by (other) reputable theologians? (Obviously, if it were held by the ‘usual suspects’ that would not be a recommendation :))

  • LocutusOP

    Incidentally, I like the the way you tackle issues with opinions which often go against public opinion. However, no matter how hard I try, I cannot bring myself to accepting either your analysis, logic or conclusion on this issue. Mind you I have also argued for legalisation, but primarily for producing nations because I believe these countries experience unnecessary violence so that politicians in Western countries can play-act their way into political office.

    Bear in mind that I do not live in the U.K., so the only impression I have of your islands comes from what I read in the newspapers. I have also not worked closely with drug addicts, as you clearly seem to have done, so I cannot appeal to personal experience or emotion in my arguments. Nor am I a historian, so pardon me if some of my figures may be a bit off.

    As for your analysis in which you refer to alcohol prohibition in the U.S…..First of all, it was doomed to fail because drinking alcohol was not a crime in itself – only selling it was. Secondly, alcohol has long been entrenched in Western culture. Drugs are not yet ingrained in culture and we should make every effort to keep it that way. From what I have read of the U.K., 24-hour drinking has become a bit of a scourge on young people. I am not privy to the evidence pointing to a fall in drug use given greater availability, but the drugs issue is one of those whereby we cannot have objective studies since most studies will have a bias either consciously or sub-consciously. In fact, the very definition of success might be problematic. Nonetheless, what most can agree to is that a greater supply of drugs leads to more drug-related problems.

    As for your logic, I have a hard time seeing how making something addictive more available would lead to less use of it. It might happen if there was a greater supply leading to lower prices, but since legalising drugs would probably go hand-in-hand with a tax on them, the price might very well go up (which, granted, might lead to lower use) but the black market for cheap drugs would remain and even grow – since possession would not even be stigmatised, and would not even cause a reprimand. Furthermore, I don’t see the point in extending the tax-funded healthcare industry – which already covers far more than most people would consider health-related – towards the sustenance of harmful habits – even under ‘controlled’ conditions, and that’s assuming one can even take drugs under controlled conditions…Especially not when people with non-self-afflicted issues are finding good care hard to come by.

    Also, as  you know, modern society does not deal with right and wrong but with legal and illegal. What of the doctor who could not in good conscience prescribe drugs to a drug addict? Would he be forced to administer them for fear of losing his job as has become the norm when conscientious objection is involved?

    As for your conclusion…The reason prohibition has not worked has more to do with the fact that it is prohibition in name only. When possession is hardly punished, and celebrities – including politicians – take drugs right, left and centre, then we can hardly say we have a prohibition in place. But I don’t think we should deem something a failure which was never attempted. I do agree with you though – we cannot go on like this!

    Out of solidarity with those who are afflicted by violence in drug-producing nations, Western societies ought to make a choice. One is total legalisation – with it’s many side effects – with the likelihood that it would (marginally) decrease violence in drug-producing countries while (most likely) leading to a marked increase in violence and anti-social behaviour in Western societies. The other is a prohibition in practical terms as well – with harsh punishments both for those selling and for those taking. I generally don’t believe that harsh punishments act as deterrents, but in the case of drugs – where both taking and selling is always pre-meditated (at least before addiction) – there is a case for very severe penalties.

    Or we could just do what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years….Loosen yet another taboo, conduct yet another social experiment (naturally as the lesser of two evils – what else?) in which the poor and the weakest end up taking the brunt of the pain, and sit back and wonder where it all went wrong.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    It does seem contradictory that demand falls with legalisation, though this has been the experience in Portugal – where there has been a slight drop in demand. Why, I do not know. Two guesses: if drugs are no longer sold for profit, no one has an interest in pushing them. Second, do some people take drugs simply because they are illegal?

  • Anonymous

    Decriminalisation, whilst better than outright prohibition, is a selfish halfway step. Decriminalisation only really benefits consumer countries (i.e. developed countries) by protecting citizens whilst police have more time to go after larger traffickers. However, for all those poor people in Matamoros or Ciudad Juarez all it means is that those that eventually end up with the drugs, they don’t face penalties. Nothing changes for them. They are still ravaged by a brutal drug-war – go visit ‘blog del narco’ to see what the drug war, decriminalisation or not means to producer countries. To really solve the problem two things are needed – strict legal regulation on the production, supply and use/possession of all drugs COMBINED with effective, realistic and truthful education on how to use the drugs and the harms they caused. Without that decriminalisation would merely be us shipping our problems abroad.

    Drug use is not immoral, otherwise smoking, drinking or even having a cup of Coffee should be classed as immoral too – those are all drugs. Humans have used drugs since before civilisation began. It is time we realise this, realise there will never be a “drug-free world” and start working with compassion to our fellow man/woman to ensure that if they make the choice to use drugs that they do it in the safest manner possible. The side-effect of this is that we remove criminal element, remove the crime and violence associated with the high-profit trade in these inelastic commodities and remove the attack on our civil liberties. The war on drugs can never be won, it has only got worse after 40 years of trying and continuous “ramp-ups”.. drugs are purer, more available and cheaper than when the war was started, and in this country we have never even conducted an impact assessment of how successful or unsuccessful the policy is.. show me another area of law that is safeguarded from such scrutiny whilst failing in its objectives so badly…

  • Anonymous

    Harm reduction is compassion. Prohibition is abdication of responsibility. For example, a Heroin addict could either be prescribed clean and pure Heroin/needles from a doctor and inject in a safe way. The would not have to rob or steal to afford their drug reducing the crime and violence in the area. They would also be in contact with health services not criminal college (aka prison) and be more inclined, with compassion and support from the health service to get clean. Prohibition says use the dirtiest needles in the most unsafe environments and with unclean drugs bought from gangsters who fund terrorists via Opium purchases etc.. I know which is the more Human version.

    Also, is drug taking “immoral” or “intrinsically evil”.. I have to say no. But you have to be clear what a drug is. I doubt many here think that having a cup of tea or coffee to wake up is immoral yet Caffeine is a drug (please see wiki for adverse health effects of this common drug What about a glass of wine with dinner or used in religious context.. is that evil? Alcohol is one of the most ‘evil’ drugs in that it reduces your inhibitions and causes violence whereas many other ‘controlled’ drugs do the opposite – I doubt many have seen an aggressive Cannabis/MDMA (Ecstasy)/Heroin user whilst they are on the drug(s). You must also define what “evil” constitutes. If Cannabis is consumed and the user sits around, watches a film, eats and has a chat with friends is it still ‘evil’ just because the government say so? Certain drugs are demonised to promote failed social policy. Who thinks Diamorphine, Desoxyn or Sativex are evil? They are the pharmaceutical trade names for Heroin, Crystal Meth and Cannabis but are not ‘evil’ as they are prescribed by doctors under medical/trained supervision. Please stop believing that some drugs are evil and others not just because of their legal status. Our failed policy is the real evil here…

  • Hughes196

    You’re right. The international drug trade is a world problem indeed, but the Mexican tragedy is directly related to the USA. They are the main providers of weapons to the drug cartels and they constitute the main market for the Mexican product.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Could not agree more!

  • J. Reed Brundage

    Actually, you are talking about legalization, not just decriminalization. As for your position, I absolutely agree. I am posting this to the Americas Program MexicoBlog

  • Anonymous

    LocutusOP, you seem to have thought very carefully about your points of view, which I respect, but unfortunately some of them are based on false pretences. Let me explain:

    Firstly “normalises all of ills of drug-taking”, “drugs defile our body” and “behaviour contrary to the dignity of the human person” all portray a viewpoint that drugs are evil, criminal and have no benefit. As I mentioned in a previous post about distinguishing between certain drugs, you have only done this on what the government says is acceptable. I’m sure you have had tea or coffee which themselves contain Caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant drug, as are Cocaine and Amphetamines. The only difference between Coca tea and ‘normal’ tea or coffee is its acceptance. In e.g. Bolivia many drink Coca tea, its effects similar to coffee but better suited to the high altitude. In fact a UN report stated that Coca chewing and tea pose no health problems and are beneficial for the indigenous peoples yet when Bolivia tried to remove the leaf from UN conventions a handful of countries objected on grounds of maintaining “integrity of the convention” – sensible debate is stifled in the name of ideology.. this is not good. Just about all plant-based drugs can be, have been and are used sensibly where, outside of “western culture”, they are used. Look at Bhang (cannabis containing drink) drunk in northern India, Coca-chewing in South America, Tobacco and Peyote (Mescaline) use among native Indians in the USA, Psilocybe Mushrooms among ancient Mexicans, Ayhauscia (DMT) among south-American Indians. Western culture takes these helpful drugs, both chemically (red wine has health effects when used in moderation) and spiritually, and via prohibition purifies them into their most harmful forms e.g. coca leaves to Cocaine. Drugs are not intrinsically harmful, merely the context of their use. Doctors regularly prescribe powerful anti-depressants which are highly phycho-active and a ‘drug’ by any measure of meaning, to deal with depression caused by poverty, abuse, sexual abuse etc. I’m sure we can all agree that the best way to help the most vulnerable is through therapy and support. Instead we fund big pharma as a pill is easier to give than constructive therapy. So instead of people using drugs in ancient social constructs such as right of passage or social settings, people turn to the most dangerous forms to self-medicate as a form of escapism. Many people with compassionate medical and mental support would never have found the need to turn to drugs (alcohol and tobacco included), of if they had, would have found it easier to turn get clean. 

    What the current policy does is say that certain drugs are ‘evil’ even though they have millennia of safe cultural and religious use and some are fine and then de-regulate them. The problems with Alcohol stem from its lack of regulation – it is a harmful substance that permeates every level of society. Any drug-policy reformer worth their salt wants tighter regulation on it – I suggest a ban on advertising and a minimum price per unit. This increases the price and reduces its social acceptance. Every drug bar one has increased in use in western society bar one… Tobacco.. and that has been achieved by education, tax increases and bans on advertising. That is the sensible and pragmatic way within any civilised society.

    This brings me on the the next point of price and availability and the black market. Firstly, if you are scared about the black market please recognise that for some drugs (arbitrarily decided, not based on their harms - 100% of them are currently in the black market so anything from that is an improvement. Secondly, most currently illicit drugs cost next to nothing to produce.. a gram of Cocaine costs under a dollar to produce, yet it can sell on the streets of London for £50 (or ~$80). To price the black market out you could charge £30, which is enough to deter regular use, generate tax income and STILL undercut the black market. Don’t be fooled thinking that because drugs are expensive at the end of their journey that they are expensive the whole way though. Cocaine mark-up between production and use is ~2000%.. no other commodity can compete with that, especially as the demand is inelastic. For an idea of what sensible regulation would look like please review this If you think that legal regulation makes these drugs more available you are living with your eyes shut. In just about any major city you could go out and purchase any drug you wanted within an hour, the drugs are here and here to stay. They are in dangerous forms. Most people when they fill out surveys don’t say they avoid certain drugs because of the law, they avoid them because of the perceived harms. The only way to reduce use is via sensible education. Currently our education consists of drugs are bad this is the worst case scenario so don’t do them.. but when someone tries them, it feels good and does no harm to them or their peers they realise they have been lied to.. what other drugs have they been lied to they might think and try some of the more dangerous ones… Realistic, truthful and pragmatic education is the only way. Another thing regarding availability is how do you explain in countries with more liberal drug laws than the USA or UK i.e. Holland and Portugal, why do they have a lower rate of use than countries that penalise more harshly. Holland, where Cannabis is de-facto legal, has lower per-capita usage rates than the UK or USA… availability does not constitute increased use.

    My final point is why do Humans take drugs (all drugs, including the ‘legal’ ones)? Used in moderation they certainly don’t “defile” the body. People take drugs because they like and enjoy the way they feel. If they were so terrible initially there would be no demand… I mean who drinks gasoline for a high? We have been using drugs before any mainstream religion came into existence, before civilisation began. Even animals use drugs – cats eat Catnip and Wallabies eat commercial Opium poppies Maybe it is more than just getting high The fact is that we have circuits in our brain that respond to these chemicals, some people enjoy taking them, some not. That is fine. It should be a choice. At the very least it should be a health issue, not a criminal one. What it comes down to is that drugs feel good for us (and animals). Governments decided arbitrarily just how ‘good’ we were allowed to feel instead of making the use safe. The best reason to reform drug laws is that it denies us a fundamental choice over the sovereignty of our own minds which should be a breach of our Human Rights. Drug use generally does not harm others, it is a victimless crime, unlike every other crime (such as murder, rape, burglary), drugs are malum prohibitum not malum in se.

    Lets stop talking about drug use as though it can be eradicated as in no point of Human history have we been drug-free, and talk as adults on how best to reduce the harm that these substances cause. Currently their legal status causes more harm than the drugs themselves and this has to stop for the sake of Humanity unless you think what goes on in Mexico is acceptable in how to trade risky commodities.

    Sorry for the essay but this failed policy effects more than users in developed countries… it is devastating whole regions of the globe in order to protect people from themselves.. but failing.

  • Anonymous “The available scientific evidence suggests that increasing the intensity of law enforcement interventions to disrupt drug markets is unlikely to reduce drug gang violence. Instead, the existing evidence suggests that drug related violence and high homicide rates are likely a natural consequence of drug prohibition and that increasingly sophisticated and well-resourced methods of disrupting drug distribution networks may unintentionally increase violence”

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Point noted re legalisation versus decriminalisation.

  • LocutusOP

    Jake, you won’t believe me but by and large we are on the same side – except for some minor details, and one major detail which I cannot let pass.

    I agree that drugs have for the most part always been with us, yet I also agree with you that many of these drugs were taken in social contexts which are not respected in today’s world. Also, I agree (although having never taken drugs I can’t know for sure) that people take drugs because they enjoy how it makes them feel. Of course, I’ll agree with you that one need not treat drugs as if they were all equivalent, and some drugs are far more addictive and harmful. When I speak of drugs, I generally refer to either natural drugs which have been enhanced for potency or artificial drugs.

    Your point on tobacco is not entirely true, however, because the main reason why cigarette use has dropped is not due to education and banning advertisements (although both these have helped) but rather through excessive (almost to the point of being immoral) taxation and most importantly through laws which seek to limit where cigarettes can be taken. Let’s not forget that we’ve had massively exaggerated claims about smoking -such as that second-hand smoking is even worse than active smoking – which by and large do not stand up to scientific scrutiny. Nonetheless, it was all done to de-socialise and stigmatise smoking – to move smoking from a personal vice into a sort of environmental harm (those around you) scenario. Since most non-smokers (myself included) find cigarette smoke quite repulsive, people have had much less of a time making a fuss over the restriction of something whose societal effects are virtually non-existent.

    The same cannot be said of drugs, however. I’m not likely to get robbed by a smoker on my way home because he’s short on cigarettes. An old lady is not likely to have her furniture sold off because her son has become a drug addict. You’re not likely to lose your job because you can’t control your smoking. All these things are much more likely to happen with drugs – and in fact, on a societal level they are almost inevitable.If drugs were a purely personal vice – as are cigarettes – then I would be inclined to agree with you, but since their use also has negative effects on the general society – again, in particular the poor – then I can’t sanction anything that would even crack open the door to the normalisation of drugs.

    I’m not sure the statistics comparing Holland to the U.S. and the U.K. are that valid though – because we shouldn’t neglect the effect of culture. Indeed what’s permissible in one culture without consequences can have atrocious consequences when moved to another. Even accounting for the fact that the Western world is homogeneous on many points, I’m not sure a direct comparison with Holland actually serves much use. That’s, of course, assuming that the statistics can be relied upon. In Holland, where the politicians would face a much harder battle to be restrictive – the bias is likely to be on suppressing negative accounts – whereas in the U.S. and the U.K. – where politicians and police would want a bigger budget – the bias might well be towards exaggerating drug use.

    Still, I do agree with you that the legal status of drugs – in drug-producing countries – causes more harm than the drugs themselves. This is why I’ve written repeatedly that it makes no sense for a country like Mexico to be having a ‘war on drugs’ with such a massive human toll especially when the loss of Mexican life would decrease significantly if they decided that they would not be fighting other people’s battles.

    Since we seem to overlap largely in our reasoning, I think the major difference is your view on man’s innate tendencies. You tend to take the view that human beings will use “in moderation” (your words) and know when to quit and I take the view that they won’t (because this is the general tendency), and because they won’t, legalising will have societal consequences which we ought not to accept readily – consequences for consuming countries that are far greater than any seen under prohibition.

  • LocutusOP

    In response to your point…I suppose some people only take drugs because they’re illegal. But if we overlook teenagers in this, I don’t think the argument holds. By similar logic I would entitled to ask. Do people break speed limits only because they exist? That would mean that eliminating speed limits would lead to people driving slower. (The morality of speed limits is something I’ll not be drawn into at this moment in time!).

    Reality does have a way of confounding logic – I’ll agree with you on that. For instance, in some places (at least once in Denmark and in the U.S. also, I believe) increased speed limits have lead to fewer road casualties. However, that’s due largely to the unfounded opinion that speed limits have a direct effect on accidents. I’m not sure any of us can really quote relevant drug-related statistics (assuming we can find truthful ones) in any meaningful way, so I’ll by and large reduce my argument to 2 points.

    First, whether legalisation would help win the ‘war on drugs’ – which I contest is not really a war in consuming countries because many of them hardly make serious efforts to punish drug users (and hardly sellers either). If your point is that legalising the sale and production of drugs in Mexico would reduce the violence there, then I’ll by and large agree with you, and I think the facts bear that out – indeed, when prohibition was abolished then alcohol-related organised crime virtually disappeared.

    I’ll submit that organised crime would seriously decrease if drugs were legalised – which is why I favour a legalisation of drug production in Mexico. What I don’t admit though, is that the presumed increased harmony in Mexico would be matched by a reduction in the use of drugs in consuming countries,  a decrease in crime or an increase in general well-being. Given the ease with which people surrender to even such a mild substance as alcohol – and the massive social problems this causes – I don’t see how adding other addictive substances to the mix would lead to less violence, less crime and more well-being.

    The problem in drug-producing countries is organised crime. That can be reduced by legalisation. The problem in drug-consuming countries is drug-related petty crime, thuggery, robbery and domestic violence – if we ignore the personal cost of the drug user – and this would not be decreased by greater access. Of course, if you’re willing to admit that greater access to alcohol in the U.K. has had a positive effect, then I’ll concede my point – but I doubt the facts will be on your side.

    Secondly, your view that the Vatican should take a stand and promote legalisation….I’ll quote the Catechism of the Church:  
    Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. the person
    who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter.
    Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
    The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their
    use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense. Clandestine
    production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices. They
    constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they encourage people to
    practices gravely contrary to the moral law.

    (We should avoid the temptation to get bogged down on the sentence “clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous practices” because that’s really not the main point in the Catechism.)

    Based on these short excerpts, I dare proclaim that there’s no way the Catholic Church would ever condone or encourage any legislation that leads to a relaxation of a society’s attitude towards drugs. It would therefore seem as though your opinion that a legalisation of drugs would be in keeping with Catholic social teaching is misguided and errant.

    I hope we can at least agree on that.

  • Anonymous

    LocutusOP, I must disagree on the point of being robbed by a smoker. Nicotine is considered at least as addictive, if not more so, than Heroin. I doubt we dispute this. The problem you highlight is the desperate actions of an addict, which you have conflated with the drug itself. This is incorrect on a general term although I won’t deny that it does happen on an individual term. The high cost of these drugs under prohibition is what fuels the crime/robbery, a Tobacco or Alcohol addiction can be covered at around £10 a day.. Heroin or Cocaine will cost about £50+ per day (when they are no more expensive to produce) which is a substantive increase. This massive difference is what causes addicts to go out and rob/steal.. but what happens when you integrate health services into addiction for things as severe as a Heroin addiction?.. Are you familiar with InSite in Canada – they provide supervised injection and health facilities in Vancouver in which “there has been a significant decrease in crime rates in the area surrounding Insite”.. or in Swizterland where they prescribe Heroin to addicts which has led to a drop in associated crime and was voted by the public as a practice that should continue,8599,1862656,00.html or A Heroin addict on pharmaceutical Heroin can maintain a steady life and even a job. However, you just cannot continue to ignore the role of prohibition in this issue. I am not advocating the normalisation of drug use, merely pragmatic and compassionate attitudes to those that choose to use and specifically to those that have problems with it. When talking about crime please also take into account the widespread corruption that the drug-money fuels This is all a consequence of prohibition policy – at every level it INCREASES crime.

    Regarding my “in moderation” I think you have misconstrued this issue. Of course not everyone just has one glass of wine or one hit of Heroin, but most people do use in moderation – mostly because they have a life outside the drug use.. it is ‘generally’ the poorest, most vulnerable and most deprived that become severely addicted to drug use of any kind. I was suggesting in my last post that this is due to the differing socio-economic factors both in living and healthcare arrangements. An old article but what I consider the complete mis-management of Alcohol in this country and 7.7% are classed as addicts (1 in 13).. I would say that the 92.3% who are not addicts suggest a tendency to use in some form of moderation, even with a drug as prevalent, damaging and addicting as Alcohol. Also, some people are more likely, outside of aforementioned circumstances, to become addicted due to their genetic make-up.. What I’m saying is that the majority of people actually do use drugs to a level where it doesn’t impact on their life in a substantially negative way. The armageddon you are predicting is exactly the same as was predicted with the re-legalisation of Alcohol in 1933, granted the situation isn’t perfect and there are steps we can take to improve it, but no one is advocating going back to the crime, violence and widespread corruption caused by its prohibition. The consequences you fear are just that.. fear. Every time pragmatic reform is proposed we only ever hear ‘increased drug use’, ‘increased crime’.. its the same the world over.. until someone does something.. Have you read about Portugal? They decriminalised all drug use in 2001 and it has been a massive success; drop in crime, drop in some usage rates, drop in overdoses, drop in HIV/AIDS infections those are consequences for consuming countries I am not only willing to live with but will actively promote! But implement it under the precautionary principle.. I am in no way advocating a free-market-free-for-all.. but as the Transform document suggests.. slow and closely monitored introduction of each drug so that if there is a problem/abuse of the system it can be corrected. Don’t be swayed by fear, tabloids and nay-sayers… look into the evidence of what actually works and you too will support strict legal regulation over what we have.. thousands of scientists have already done this

  • Anonymous

    The USA were the key instigators in the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, in which they called some drugs “evil”. They are now the key perpetrators of this policy, bullying UN agencies and suppressing evidence. They have 5% of the worlds prison population and 25% of the worlds incarcerated population. Every time a country tries to act in a pragmatic way they bully them i.e. when Mexico decided to decriminalise small quantities of drugs - it was eventually passed, but a few years later. Not only that, but the drug war benefits them in many ways Illegal drug money was also said to be the only liquid cash that kept the banks afloat in the 2008 meltdown. They have the means and incentive to continue this policy as it is in their elites best interest. They are the key.. what happens in America in this issue tends to filter down to other countries. If America repealed the UN conventions you can bet other countries would very quickly follow. They created this worldwide problem and they can end it quicker than any other country…

  • Brandt Hardin

    The War on Drugs failed $1 Trillion ago!  This money could have been used for outreach
    programs to clean up the bad end of drug abuse by providing free HIV testing,
    free rehab, and clean needles.  Harmless
    drugs like marijuana could be legalized to help boost our damaged economy.  Cannabis can provide hemp for countless
    natural recourses and the tax revenue from sales alone would pull every state
    in our country out of the red!  Vote
    Teapot, PASS IT, and legalize it.  Voice
    you opinion with the movement and read more on my artist’s blog at  

  • RJ

    Please read my reply to Fr Alexander below.

    If drug taking were evil, it would not be compassionate to aid someone to do it because that would be tantamount to assisting someone to harm themselves (physically or morally).

    As you may note, I haven’t said that ‘drugs are evil’ but I was questioning whether their use might be.

    Nothing is ‘evil’ because the government says so. What a ridiculous idea.

    Evil is something that goes against what is for our good (human flourishing and ultimately salvation), according to our nature.

    ‘Cold turkey’ could be another treatment option, which has not been explored here.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Even during Prohibition, it was accepted that wine, beer, and ale are capable of being produced in any home kitchen by most schoolchildren, using innocuous ingredients – fruit, grain, yeast, water – that are easily and legally obtainable. Thus, there was no question of outlawing these for the use by families in their own homes, even during Prohibition. It was the trafficking in – the transport and sale of - distilled spirits that was outlawed.  

    Drugs like cocaine cannot be compared to alcohol or tobacco. Habitual opiate and narcotic use quickly break down whatever fundamental decency and humanity toward others may operate within the user.  A former cocaine addict remarked, “if a group of friends were sitting around a table sharing a batch of cocaine, and one keeled over dead, the first thought that would occur to each and every one remaining would be, “oh, good! All that much the more cocaine for me!”
    Addicts have literally sold their children to obtain cash with which to obtain cocaine and other drugs. And I don’t mean sold them to adoptive parents desperate for a child of their own, who will give that child a good home, but a very different sort of trafficker in children, who will pay cash and will insist on no questions asked.

    Everything quickly goes by the wayside – children, family, decency, conscience, community, career, home, health, self-respect. Everything is sacrificed to obtain the drug the addict wants and needs.

    Does anyone really believe that, with a mindset like that, many addicts would go through the bother with visiting a physician to obtain a prescription, when they can simply go through the black market that will quickly spring up? Or that if one happened to be short of the cash with which to purchase legal narcotics or opiates, that they would hesistate to rob or steal to get what they want? Or that a thriving black market won’t quickly grow up to serve those who can’t or won’t bother going through government-run operations to obtain what they need? And that such a  black-market won’t be every bit as violent and vicious as the general trade is today?

    Those who argue that simply legalizing or decriminalizing drugs will somehow significantly reduce the damage drugs are doing to our communities have no idea what drugs do to people, or what people will do to obtain them.

  • Anonymous

    “Nothing is ‘evil’ because the government says so. What a ridiculous idea.” Its not ridiculous actually, the government defines what is and isn’t acceptable through legislature. Cannabis, Cocaine and Opiate medicinal product use used to be widespread in this country – Queen Victoria even used Cannabis for period pains.. yet now a head of state admitting they use(d) drugs.. unthinkable.. what happened? Certain drugs were demonised over the last century which is why it is not inappropriate to suggest that governmental, especially at the international level, legislation has had an enormous impact on what people believe – just look at attitudes to racism, homosexuality, slavery.. things that were once ‘evil’ but are now not, this has only been achieved through laying the groundwork in legislation and waiting for some of the public to catch up. The UN single convention even mentions the “evil of drug addiction”.. the language is there, enshrined in law. It is not a ridiculous assertion.

    Regarding evil as according to our nature.. in one of my other posts I discussed that Humans have being using drugs since before civilisation began, many of them psychedelics (Mescaline, Mushrooms, DMT/Ayahuasca et al) for religious and spiritual ceremonies to enhance their understanding of the world, so being used in a cultural and positive setting. Also So they can be used for Human flourishing and salvation, but not under current Catholic interpretations, which does not rule it out for other cultures or further interpretations.

    Also, cold turkey can work for some but not all. Heroin withdrawal causes physical pain which is why most addicts relapse when trying to go cold turkey. You also have to be very careful that you don’t force people into this route as it is not dealing with the problem of why they started using in the first place (emotional trauma such as sexual abuse or depression etc.) which also leads to relapse. The only real way to treat people is on an individual basis (and with compassion as I have emphasised so many times) and address the root causes of their addiction and them help them with their drug addiction if you are to have any hope of lasting success.

  • Anonymous

    A complete misunderstanding of the topic Marion. Drugs CAN be compared by their harms - - please notice that Alcohol scores higher in harms than Crack, powder Cocaine and Meth in terms of harm to others.

    Would addicts go for prescription… OF COURSE! If you were addicted to Alcohol and you could go to Tescos and buy branded liquor, would you go to a black-market dealer for lower quality, dangerous and more expensive bathtub-gin? No. Look at Switzerland where Heroin is prescribed and illicit sales have dropped! Please read some of my other comments that show when you prescribe these substances crime and violence in the area goes down and rehabilitation goes up. All the problems you talk about are due to the high cost of otherwise very cheap commodities. Also, please don’t say we shouldn’t fund addicts due to the cost as our current policy costs ~£17bn a year. Prescribed drugs would maybe cost ~£1000-£2000 per year whereas a jail cell is around ~£45,000. 

    “a thriving black market”.. what do you think we have now? 100% of the trade is in the black market… with all the associated problems. You are conflating prohibition harms with the harms that drugs cause. I’m sorry but you are just wrong on these issues. 

    Regarding Cocaine, a 1995 report - WHO/UNICRI Cocaine Project (which was suppressed due to US pressure as they didn’t like the findings) ascertained:
    - “Health problem; from the use of legal substances, particularly alcohol and tobacco, are greater than health problems from cocaine use.- Few experts describe cocaine as invariably harmful to health. Cocaine-related problems are widely perceived to be more common and more severe for intensive, high-dosage users and very rare and much less severe for occasional, low-dosage users.”- “It is not possible to describe an “average cocaine user”. An enormous variety was found in the types of people who use cocaine, the amount of drug used, the frequency of use, the duration and intensity of use, the reasons for using and any associated problems they experience.”

  • LocutusOP

    Perhaps we might try to have a decent attempt at punishing drug-taking and drug-selling…Something in line with the efforts against child pornography.

  • Anonymous

    The trade in prohibited drugs is the single largest revenue stream for organised crime. If that is taken away from them, then we may well see diversion into other criminal activity – but no other criminal activity offers the same mix of being relatively easy to do and yet highly profitable. Unlike the drug trade, where buyers and sellers both have a strong incentive to conceal their transactions, most other crimes involve an unwilling victim, who has an incentive to report it to the police – thus making it massively more detectable. There is only so much opportunity in the world for making a living from crime; reduce the opportunity and you will have a knowck-on effect on the scale of criminal operations. But the really important thing is that while we may now have a generation of people who have grown used to running an illegal economy, if the bottom falls out of the market, it is future generations who will have a much reduced incentive to become career criminals in the first place. Mexico’s cartels may initially be able to intimidate or murder some pharmacists who are taking their business by selling newly re-legalised drugs, but they cannot compete in the long term on either cost or quality without morphing themselves into legal regulated (and non-violent) suppliers. Which, like some of the alcohol bootleggers after the repeal of Prohibition, is probably will happen with some of them.

  • Anonymous

    I should add to Jake’s reply and point out that the reason that addicts (as well as non-addicted users, who are of course, the majority with any drug, with the possible exception of tobacco) would buy from the government channels is because the black market currently charges a ‘risk premium’ – that factor of the retail price of a drug which is necessary to compensate the producers and sellers for the fact that their job presents a high danger of arrest and imprisonment. It represents a very high percentage of the total production and distribution costs. Re-legalised drugs would not need to carry this cost, therefore the black market simply could not stay in business while charging anything like the prices it does today. It is the fight for control of profits (which cannot be defended by legal means through the courts) that make the drug trade violent, not the nature of the commodities. When we had such a high tax on tea that it created a huge economic incentive for smugglers to import it illegally, smugglers became ruthless and violent. The solution was to reduce tea taxes to an affordable level. Likewise other drugs (I know it’s weird to think of tea as a drug, but of course it is, as any chemist will tell you).  And you must then consider why these vicious cartels are not murdering each other over control of the alcohol or tobacco trade. If the fact of a drug being legal did not preclude people generally continuing to put their money into the black market rather than legal suppliers, you must answer why then it is that illegally produced and smuggled alcohol and cigarettes represent only a tiny fraction of the market in these two dangerous, addictive yet legally regulated drugs.

    But let’s grant that you are right about habitual cocaine or opiate use being so destructive of character as to be orders of magnitude (you are almost certainly not right, but let’s grant it for now). You must still concede that these arguments fail when it comes to other drugs which are essentially non-addictive, like the psychedelics, or, in the case of cannabis, possessing a modest potential for producing psychological dependence, but lacking the property of creating unpleasant physical withdrawal symptoms like alcohol or heroin. Would you at least concede that there is no justification for these to continue to be prohibited?

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    “Drug use is not immoral, otherwise smoking, drinking or even having a cup of Coffee should be classed as immoral too – those are all drugs. Humans have used drugs since before civilisation began.”

    This is like saying that arson should not be considered immoral, since burning logs in a fireplace and burning charcoal in an outdoor cook grill would have to be considered immoral, as well.

    In most instances of moderate use of coffee and alcohol consumption, ill effects to the users or others are absent. Overuse of alcohol can threaten the health of the user, and the safety of others, however, many people throughout the world use alcohol moderately and without ill effects over their lifetimes.The same is not true of cocaine or meth or most other illegal drugs, which quickly “hook” the user who goes beyond mere experimentation, and of which the user must ingest increasing quantities to achieve the desired effect.

    Persons whose use of opiates and meth and other illegal drugs goes beyond casual experimentation quickly lose the ability to function without the drug. Their careers and their families are forgotten in their quest for more of the drug. Habitual drug users’ noses are eaten away (cocaine); their teeth drop out (meth); and the develop ulcers from infected injection sites (heroin). They no longer care about their work, and they no longer care about their children, who are hideously neglected.

    To compare the use of these sorts of drugs with that of innocuous substances such as coffee is beyond foolish.

  • Anonymous

    Marion, your viewpoint is typical of the type of hysteria that surrounds ‘controlled’ drugs. You apologise for drugs you like or do not have moral issues with (Alcohol and Coffee) whilst denigrating those you most likely know little about. You have also confused malum prohibitum and malum in se. Arson has a victim, drug use is a consensual act and does not have a victim per se (and if there is a victim e.g. with violence caused by alcohol, we already have laws to deal with that). Please do not confuse the two.

    The dangerous nature of certain drugs – Opiates, Cocaine, Meth and please include Alcohol, is prime reason for proper control and regulation! It is precisely that because they can be dangerous that we MUST control them through government regulation, unless you think that violent organised criminals/gangsters funding terrorists is the best method of control for a product that is able to be abused?!

    I do not mean to be rude but please read my other comments on this article before writing back as I have covered many of your strawmen and false conflations in them. Also, Caffeine is a drug and its overuse has negative consequences as with any drug – plus you can actually die from a Caffeine overdose but to die directly from Cannabis you would need to consume half your bodyweight (or ridiculously huge amount in around) 15 minutes, it is less toxic than just about any drug “much less dangerous than tobacco, prescription drugs, and alcohol in social harms, physical harm, and addiction”, so please stop with the hysteria and try look at this issue pragmatically, objectively and away from scaremongering anecdote.

  • Anonymous

    Alcohol is a factor in the following

    * 73% of all felonies * 73% of child beating cases * 41% of rape cases * 80% of wife battering cases * 72% of stabbings * 83% of homicides.

    According to the Australian National Drug Research Institute (2003): “Tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs are prematurely killing around seven million people worldwide each year, and robbing tens of millions more of a healthy life. The research into the global burden of disease attributable to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs found that in 2000, tobacco use was responsible for 4.9 million deaths worldwide, equating to 71 percent of all drug-related deaths. Around 1.8 million deaths were attributable to the use of alcohol (26 percent of all drug-related deaths), and illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine and amphetamines) caused approximately 223,000 deaths (3 percent of all drug-related deaths).”

    According to DrugRehabs.Org, national mortality figures for 2009 were:  tobacco  435,000;  poor diet and physical inactivity  365,000;  alcohol  85,000; microbial agents  75,000;  toxic agents  55,000; motor vehicle crashes  26,347; adverse reactions to prescription drugs 32,000;  suicide  30,622;  incidents involving firearms  29,000;  homicide  20,308;  sexual behaviors  20,000;  all illicit drug use, direct and indirect  17,000; and marijuana 0.

    Apart from the fact that legal drugs kill far more people than all the illegal drugs combined, debating whether a particular drug is harmless or not is missing the whole point. Are drugs like Heroin, Meth or Alcohol dangerous? It simply doesn’t matter, because if we prohibit them then we sure as hell know that it makes a bad situation far worse. If someone wants to attempt to enhance or destroy their lives with particular medicines or poisons, that should be their business, not anybody else’s. Their lives aren’t ours to direct. And anyway, who wants to give criminals a huge un-taxed, endless revenue stream?

    A great many of us are slowly but surely wising up to the fact that the best avenue towards realistically dealing with drug use and addiction is through proper regulation which is what we already do with alcohol & tobacco, clearly two of our most dangerous mood altering substances. But for those of you whose ignorant and irrational minds traverse a fantasy plane of existence, you will no doubt remain sorely upset with any type of solution that does not seem to lead to your absurd and unattainable utopia of a drug free society.

  • Anonymous

    Here are some very simple facts:

    * A rather large majority of people will always feel the need to use drugs, such as heroin, opium, nicotine, amphetamines, alcohol, sugar, or caffeine. 

    * Due to Prohibition, the availability of mind-altering drugs has become so universal and unfettered, that in any city of the civilized world, any one of us would be able to procure practically any drug we wish within an hour.

    * The massive majority of people who use drugs do so recreationally – getting high at the weekend then up for work on a Monday morning. 

    * A small minority of people will always experience drug use as problematic.

    * Throughout history, the prohibition of any mind-altering substance has always exploded usage rates, overcrowded jails, fueled organized crime, created rampant corruption of law-enforcement, even whole governments, and induced an incalculable amount of suffering and death. 

    * It’s not even possible to keep drugs out of prisons, but prohibitionists wish to waste hundreds of billions of our money in an utterly futile attempt to keep them off our streets.

    * Prohibition kills more people and ruins more lives than the prohibited drugs have ever done.

    * The United States jails a larger percentage of it’s own citizens than any other country in the world, including those run by the worst totalitarian regimes.

    * The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it.
    - H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American editor, essayist and philologist.

    * In ‘the land formally known as free’, all citizens have been stripped of their 4th amendment rights and are now totally subordinate to a corporatized, despotic government with a heavily armed and corrupt, militarized police force whose often deadly intrusions into their homes and lives are condoned by an equally corrupt and spineless judiciary.

    * As with torture, prohibition is a grievous crime against humanity. If you support it, or even simply tolerate it by looking the other way while others commit it,  you are an accessory to a very serious moral transgression against humanity.

    * The United States re-legalized certain drug use in 1933. The drug was alcohol, and the 21st amendment re-legalized its production, distribution and sale. Both alcohol consumption and violent crime dropped immediately as a result, and, very soon after, the American economy climbed out of that same prohibition engendered abyss into which it had previously been pushed.

  • Anonymous

    Marion Mael Muire, your ridiculous claim that other drugs do more damage or are more dangerous than alcohol has recently been totally refuted by British scientists whose  research was published in the medical journal The Lancet.

    Substances were given a mark from zero to 100 based on certain criteria, with alcohol scoring 72 overall followed by 55 for heroin and 54 for crack.

    Among some of the other drugs assessed were crystal meth (33), cocaine (27), tobacco (26), amphetamine or speed (23), cannabis (20), benzodiazepines, such as Valium (15), ketamine (15), methadone (14), mephedrone (13), ecstasy (9), anabolic steroids (9), LSD (7) and magic mushrooms (5).

    Certain benzodiazepines (legally obtainable on prescription) have been documented as causing organic brain damage leading to speech disorders such as stuttering and cluttering, aphasia, dysnomia, delusional disorders, severe memory problems, motor coordination damage, and neurological problems.

    The theory that ecstasy destroys brain cells has long been debunked: BMJ 1996;313:423 (Published 17 August 1996)

    Heroin/Morphine and other opiates in pure form have very little or even no long term damage to the brain or the body. Addiction is the biggest issue with this group of drugs.

    Cocaine, though a powerfully reinforcing drug, is not generally believed to cause brain damage. However this is somewhat disputed.

    But of course, debating whether a particular drug is harmless or not is missing the whole point. Are drugs like Heroin, Meth or Alcohol dangerous? It simply doesn’t matter, because if we prohibit them then we surel know that it makes a bad situation far worse.

    Marion, sane policy based on solid evidence as opposed to delusional neurotic fantasy, is key in all this.

    If you’re going to continue with your crusade for a drug-free Utopia, then at least take a stand on either ALL drugs (incl. alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine) or no drugs. There is no ” in-between” that doesn’t bring forth a “double standard.” And double standards are one of the many reasons why you’re losing this debate!

  • Anonymous

    My dear Marion Mael Muir, It is extremely disingenuous to compare laws that are obviously there to protect us from each other, such as those pertaining to Arson, Pedophilia, Rape and Murder, with laws solely and foolishly designed to protect individuals from themselves –such as prohibition. If it’s not directly hurting you, and you forbid it, then you can be sure that it will create unforeseen circumstances which WILL have an adverse affect on YOUR wellbeing. While it is true that taking any drug, including alcohol and tobacco, can sometimes indirectly affect others, this exact same argument was used to implement and painfully prolong alcohol prohibition. But wife battering and child neglect were definitely not curtailed, or even ameliorated, by alcohol prohibition. Prohibition actually increased usage and all related problems, while bootleggers, just like many of our present day drug lords, became rich and powerful folk heroes as a result.  

    Prohibition has given us huge corruption. Prohibition has given the United States the planet’s highest incarceration rate. Prohibition has given us civil war in Mexico. Prohibition has given us an un-winnable war in Afghanistan. And Prohibition has given us a far higher rate of drug-use than in all other countries with a more sensible policy.

    We should all be aware by now of the difference between sensible public policies designed to protect us, and idiotic public policies designed by despotic imbeciles to create as much mayhem as possible.

    When we regulate the use of something we do NOT automatically condone it’s use; the regulations concerning alcohol and tobacco are there to protect us from the vast increase in criminality that would otherwise exist if these substances were not regulated.

    A regulated and licensed distribution network for all mind altering substances would put responsible adult supervision in between children and premature access to drug distribution outlets. Regulated and licensed distribution would reflect and respect society’s values, thus preventing children obtaining easy access to these dangerous substances. What we need is legalized regulation, but what we have at the moment is a non-regulated black market to which everybody, including our children, has easy access, and where all the vast profits go to organized crime and terrorists.

    If you really want to know how deep prohibition engendered corruption runs, especially in America, then kindly watch the following:
    Part 1

  • Anonymous

    Marion Mael Muire, your ignorance on this subject is absolutely astounding. Alcohol is a factor in the following:

    * 73% of all felonies * 73% of child beating cases * 41% of rape cases * 80% of wife battering cases * 72% of stabbings * 83% of homicides.

    According to the Australian National Drug Research Institute (2003): “Tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs are prematurely killing around seven million people worldwide each year, and robbing tens of millions more of a healthy life. The research into the global burden of disease attributable to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs found that in 2000, tobacco use was responsible for 4.9 million deaths worldwide, equating to 71 percent of all drug-related deaths. Around 1.8 million deaths were attributable to the use of alcohol (26 percent of all drug-related deaths), and illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine and amphetamines) caused approximately 223,000 deaths (3 percent of all drug-related deaths).”

    According to DrugRehabs.Org, national mortality figures for 2009 were:  tobacco  435,000;  poor diet and physical inactivity  365,000;  alcohol  85,000; microbial agents  75,000;  toxic agents  55,000; motor vehicle crashes  26,347; adverse reactions to prescription drugs 32,000;  suicide  30,622;  incidents involving firearms  29,000;  homicide  20,308;  sexual behaviors  20,000;  all illicit drug use, direct and indirect  17,000; and marijuana 0.

    Apart from the fact that legal drugs kill far more people than all the illegal drugs combined, debating whether a particular drug is harmless or not is missing the whole point. Are drugs like Heroin, Meth or Alcohol dangerous? It simply doesn’t matter, because if we prohibit them then we sure as hell know that it makes a bad situation far worse. If someone wants to attempt to enhance or destroy their lives with particular medicines or poisons, that should be their business, not anybody else’s. Their lives aren’t ours to direct. And anyway, who wants to give criminals a huge un-taxed, endless revenue stream?

    A great many of us are slowly but surely wising up to the fact that the best avenue towards realistically dealing with drug use and addiction is through proper regulation which is what we already do with alcohol & tobacco, clearly two of our most dangerous mood altering substances. But for those of you whose ignorant and irrational minds traverse a fantasy plane of existence, you will no doubt remain sorely upset with any type of solution that does not seem to lead to your absurd and unattainable utopia of a drug free society.

  • Anonymous

    We are all, I’m sure, agreed that smoking should not be encouraged. Yet we do not threaten tobacco users with arrest and imprisonment. Now consider dangerous sports such as mountain climbing. The death rate on Mount Everest is about one in ten of those who make it successfully, which is a vastly higher mortality rate than just about any drug used at present in a recreational manner.

    Maybe you believe that it’s immoral to use a certain drug. If so, would you care to explain to us why you think that alcohol or tobacco is exempted from your personal moral condemnation. And even then, you still need to explain why you think it should be a crime to imbibe certain plants and not others. 

    Prohibition means that these certain plants/concoctions/drugs are sold only by criminals and terrorists who are heavily armed. This is a direct result of this failed policy which guarantee that those who sell drugs cannot defend their business interests in the usual legal way. 

    law enforcement and rehabilitation are mutually exclusive.  Would alcoholics seek help for their illness if doing so were tantamount to confessing to criminal activity? Likewise, would putting every incorrigible alcoholic behind bars and saddling them with criminal records prove cost-effective?

    Further, it simply cannot be mandated that people give up drugs in order to receive help. The abstinence mandate keeps the majority of candidates away. What then occurs is that people with drug problems continue to use drugs in a way that presents a high risk of health problems to the individual user.

    And don’t forget, nobody wants to see an end to prohibition because they want to use drugs. They wish to see proper legalized regulation because they are witnessing, on a daily basis, the dangers and futility of prohibition. ‘Legalised Regulation’ won’t be the complete answer to all our drug problems, but it’ll greatly ameliorate the crime and violence on our streets, and only then can we provide effective education and treatment.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Malcolmkyle, please re-read what I wrote carefully.

    Please note I pointed out that alcohol used in moderation does not lead to harm to the user or to others. And millions do use alcohol in moderation without harm.

    Few persons who use narcotics and meth use them *in moderation*, however, and here the health risks associated with them come into play for nearly all users.

  • Marion (Mael Muire)

    Denial, Jake.

    It’s not a river in Egypt.

  • Mark77uk

    “What I am arguing in this post is that the best way to deal with the problem is legalisation”

    The best way for whom, Father? – the addicts who would go on forever bound to their addictions, never set free? or the retailers that would make a massive profit out of other people’s misery? or perhaps us as Christians; one less problem to worry about, one less thing to dwell on our consciences – all swept nicely under the carpet without having to lift a finger, break a sweat, get our hands dirty, or, God-forbid, love a stranger.

    I see little difference in this arguement to the one that made abortion legal – it was all such a big mess and getting far too out of control, loads of women were dying or seriously injuring themselves etc. Solution – let’s just legalise the practice and say it can only be done after consulting a doctor or two.

    Perhaps the real solution might be something a bit more along these lines; a loving Christ-centred approach:

  • Anonymous

    I present rational arguments, fact and evidence (backed up by links), you present prejudice and nativity on a subject you clearly do not understand. I’m afraid it is you who is in denial about the true nature of ‘drugs’ and the problems that they cause compared to the problems their prohibition causes.. did you even read my other comments?

  • Anonymous

    So Alcohol can be used in moderation but other drugs not? Have you ever been to the centre of any British town on a Friday night and seen the health risks, both to individuals and innocent bystanders due to the effects of Alcohol?! Please explain, with evidence to back up you assertion, why other drugs are not able to be used in moderation.

    You are an apologist for a brutal and oppressive government policy because you do not understand its workings.

  • Alexander Lucie-Smith

    Legalisation does not imply approval of drug-taking in any way, as almost everyone who has posted on this thread seems to understand. Neither does it imply not caring about the plight of drug addicts. Quite the contrary.
    The comparison with abortion is odious and mistaken; drug legalisation does not give permission to harm let alone kill innocent third parties. If you read the story from the Brownsville Herald you will see that the war on drugs is often deadly to innocent third parties.