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Let’s hope Americans make the right choice tomorrow – by legalising cannabis

Tomorrow voters in three US states have the chance to help end failed war on drugs

By on Monday, 5 November 2012

Cannabis sativa, marihuana, hemp, plant

Something very important happens on Tuesday when America comes to vote – but the epoch-making decision isn’t Obama versus Romney. Rather it is happening in three states where people will get a chance to vote in a referendum to legalise marijuana. The states are Washington, Oregon and Colorado.

The Observer yesterday reported: 

If the measures are passed, adults over 21 would be able to possess, distribute and use small amounts. Cannabis for authorised medical use is already permitted and regulated by each state, even though it is against federal law.

Support is particularly strong in Washington and Colorado, but a “yes” vote in any of the states would be interpreted by the Department of Justice as an act of defiance against the federal government’s war on drugs – the national law enforcement programme that spends $44bn a year struggling to stem the tide of illegal drugs in the US.

In June 2011, however, the Global Commission on Drug Policy declared that the war on drugs had failed.

As a British subject resident over here, I do not get a vote, but if I did live in any of these states, my vote would certainly be for liberalisation. I have written on this before now, so it should not come as a suprise to anyone. (See here and here  and here)

I note from the report that several retired cops are in favour of legalisation, and the pros and antis do not divide along expected party lines. Like all reasonable people, I want to see drug use decline; I think that in the long term there is a fair chance of this happening if drugs are legalised. I am sure that there is no chance of this happening if the present situation is allowed to continue. As things stand at present, the drug suppliers, who are criminals, have a vested interest in encouraging drug use, and no qualms about doing so. In addition, illegality gives drugs an added undeserved glamour. Legalisation means taking the production, distribution and sale of these dangerous substances away from criminals, and placing them in responsible hands.

But what is absolutely certain is that the war on drugs, that has cost millions of dollars and millions of lives, and which has led to several countries teetering on the brink of failed statedom, has been a resounding failure. We might once have wished to prevent people who wanted drugs being able to obtain them, but we have failed to do so, resoundingly so. All we have done is created a vast and powerful international drugs industry, an industry that would, with legalisation, be put out of business.

The measures up for the vote on Tuesday are modest ones, but they represent a small but impornat step towards sanity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Carter/1504034361 Daniel Carter

     Drugs and humankind have peacefully co-existed for millions of years… since before we are human, as animals too enjoy drugs.

    Anyone can learn history to realise that prohibition and violent punishment and discrimination of drug users started when, after thousands of years of peaceful drug taking, violent prohibitionists decided to forcibly stop people from buying, selling and possessing drugs. Of course, the consequences have been exactly the same in every country were this violent prohibition has been applied: aggravating to unheard extremes a hypothetical evil, justifying the destruction and plundering of countless persons, promoting the ill-gotten wealth of corrupt inquisitors, and creating a prosperous black market for all the forbidden items.

    Some prohibitionists still have the drivel to insist that all this violence has nothing to do with prohibition, that it is your drug consumption what is causing prohibition enforcers to violently steal and kill thousands of peaceful drug users and producers, while at the same time giving the control of dangerous drugs to violent criminals which are in most cases indistinguishable from prohibition enforcers. This is, obviously, not true, as drug consumption used to take place peacefully long before violent prohibition was forced on us and prohibitionists started violently kidnapping (some) drugs users, sellers and producers of (some) drugs, with the most terrible consequences:

    In India, a huge opium production there during the nineteenth century did no give rise to anything that could be called “abuse”, and in 1981, not a single case of heroin addiction was reported there. But in 1985, when the county accepted a harsh repressive legislation to comply with international directives, the population began to substitute poppy juice for heroin, and in 1988, the number of Indian heroin addicts, mostly young, was estimated to be one million. Its neighbour Pakistan, with a much smaller population, had double that amount, according to the health minister of the Benazir Bhutto government, whereas a decade earlier the phenomenon had been largely unknown.

    In Malaysia, where the death penalty was invariably applied to anyone possessing more than fifteen grams of heroin, the government estimated in 1986 that there were 110,000 heroin addicts, exceptional in a country with a population of ten million. The same thing occurred in Thailand, were the penalty was death or a life sentence but there were about half a million junkies. The principal result of these draconian laws was to create a monopoly of the traffic concentrated in a few hands, well infiltrated into institutions, and excluding competition. Something similar was true in Latin America, where even though legislation drifted into harshness, cocaine production in 1991 was a million kilos, something inconceivable twenty years before, and great land extensions were assigned to poppy cultivation.

    In Europe, where illicit drug problems were largely unknown until the seventies, a persecution initially directed against psychedelics ended up being identified as a battle against the Enemy Within, American style, creating conditions favorable for organized bands around the hashish, heroin, and cocaine traffic. Starting at the end of the eighties, this traffic began to include MDMA and other design analogues. Criminality related to drugs had passed from being a negligible chapter to one encompassing three-fourths of all convictions, saturating prisons catastrophically, multiplying by a factor of a thousand the involuntary deaths from fatal intoxication, and filling the streets with sellers and informants, paid with a percentage of what they turned in, whose intervention adulterated the product and at the same time assured its ubiquitous presence. News about substances that “disappeared” or “were reduced” after confiscation suggested that there was an informal tax, destined to support that dense layer of double agents, and that everything confiscated tended to en up, in whole or in part, in the black market.

    In the early 19th century, when opium smoking was gaining popularity in China, the Emperor took counsel from his mandarins. One party argued for taxation and regulation, the other for prohibition. The prohibitionists won, with the result that the profitability on opium sales to China rose over 1000%. The consequence was an unparalleled wave of smuggling, the penetration of opium to every corner of China, a rate of addiction never seen before or after, and ultimately the collapse of the Manchu dynasty into civil war, invasion and famine. Had the Emperor chosen the pragmatic choice of regulation and control, the use of opium in China would never have followed the course it did.

    Here in Britain we seem determined to repeat the same mistakes. The adoption of strictly prohibitionist policies in the 1980′s resulted in an unprecedented explosion in drug use, especially heroin, across Britain. Eventually in the 1990′s it was recognised these policies were making the situation worse, and pragmatic harm reduction approaches were developed. Now it seems the Coalition wishes to abandon harm reduction and return to a strict abstinence only prohibitionist position. Its time we woke up and realised that drug prohibition is an abject failure, which affects all members of society, whether you use drugs or not. The answer is not tougher laws, or more police, but a regulated supply of drugs to those who need/want them, combined with highly visible public health education to prevent another generation from experimenting.

    Although the majority of the governments generally lined up with the intransigent position favored by the United States, the example of liberal Holland was embarrassing because of the results if produces. The Dutch actually had the highest rates of illicit drug consumption but the lowest rates of fatal intoxication and related criminality, as well as the least correlation (6 percent) between the use of heroin and AIDS, when by omparison that correlation exceeded 60 percent in France and Spain. Dutch authorities explained their country’s privileged position by the population’s high awareness (instead of ignorance- of pharmacology), by the absence of counter productive mythologies or alarmist reactions that distort the real effects of drugs, and by the availability of drugs though noncriminal routes.

     At the beginning of the nineties, several Swiss cantons adopted this position as well, even testing the free distribution of heroin to anyone who requested it, and making certain zones available for its consumption.
    Take a leaf from the Swiss. They give heroin to addicts in government clinics. Young people don’t want to try heroin, as they can visibly see its for sick messed up people queuing at some boring clinic; rather than falling for the fake glamour created by harsh prohibition combined with the latest celebrity drug scandal.
    The reasons given by law, social science, medicine, and history against prohibition have not changed in the last forty years, when Szasz, Becker, and Schnur, among others, diagnosed its probable route. Within strictly scientific circles, dissidence was (and continues to be) as unanimous as support for it appears to exist among political and religious leaders.

    Drugs have always been around, and they will certainly ever remain. To pretend that both users and non-users will be better protected because some of them are impure, very expensive and sold by criminals (who are, by the way, indistinguishable from undercover police and plain businessmen) is simply ridiculous, and yet more so when the street supply grows year after year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Carter/1504034361 Daniel Carter

    at this point in time, everyone seems to agree prohibition is wrong and we must ended it. Just a little problem stop us from changing drug laws:

    “Drugs and crime chief (Antonio Maria Costa) confessed $352bn in criminal proceeds was effectively laundered by financial institutions” http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2009/dec/13/drug-money-banks-saved-un-cfief-claims

    “How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico’s murderous drug gangs” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/03/us-bank-mexico-drug-gangs

    “Wall Street’s Role in Narco Trafficking, The War on Drugs is a Fraud” http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article28449.html

    “Banks Financing Mexico Gangs Admitted in Wells Fargo Deal” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-06-29/banks-financing-mexico-s-drug-cartels-admitted-in-wells-fargo-s-u-s-deal.html

    “The Banking Industry’s Dirty Little Secret: Money Laundering For The Drug Cartels”: http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/91579

    “Bank of Credit and Commerce International” http://www.economicexpert.com/a/Bank:of:Credit:and:Commerce:International.html

    “The “War On Drugs” Is A $2.5 Trillion Racket: How Big Banks, Private Military Companies And The Prison Industry Cash In” http://www.sott.net/articles/show/231370-The-War-On-Drugs-Is-A-2-5-Trillion-Racket-How-Big-Banks-Private-Military-Companies-And-The-Prison-Industry-Cash-In

    “Why can’t the US legalize drugs? There’s ‘too much money in it,’ Clinton says” http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/02/07/clinton-legalize-drugs-too-much-money/

    “US Agents Helped Launder Millions In Drug Proceeds” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=144943061

    “Killing for Opium : If You Speak Out, You’re ‘Suicided’” http://theindependentlifeboat.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/killing-for-opium-if-you-speak-out-youre-suicided/
    “Colombia: US corporation linked to death squad; new evidence revealed” http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/47893
    “Sunday Focus: Drug money supports drug war” http://www.galesburg.com/news/x600916521/Sunday-Focus-Drug-money-supports-drug-war

    “CIA drug trafficking” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_drug_trafficking

    “The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Politics_of_Heroins_in_South-East_Asia

    “US Arming Mexican Cartels” http://www.talkingdrugs.org/texas-gunstores-arm-mexican-drug-traffickers

    “The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations” http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB2/nsaebb2.htm

    “A Tangled Web: A History of CIA Complicity in Drug International Trafficking” http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/1998_cr/980507-l.htm

    “Beast friends: Gangster & cop”: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/447785/Frank-Lucas-New-Yorks-biggest-drug-baron-Friends-with-cop-Richie-Roberts.html

    The Statesman, “Police and drugs”: http://www.thestatesmanonline.com/pages/news_detail.php?newsid=106&section=1

    “DSI Duffy Corrupt Middlesbrough Police Officer; Secret pay deals give top police thousands extra” : http://www.david-duffy.cleveland-police.co.uk/

    “Top cop’s house used as cannabis factory” http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/12/27/top-cop-s-house-used-as-cannabis-factory-115875-22808908/

    “Man Says Officer Seized $14,000 That Wasn’t Drug Money” http://www.tokeofthetown.com/2011/01/man_says_officer_seized_14000_that_wasnt_drug_mone.php

    “Cash-Strapped Police Departments Find New Source of Revenue: Stealing!” http://reason.com/blog/2009/12/04/cash-strapped-police-departmen?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reason%2FHitandRun+%28Reason+Online+-+Hit+%26+Run+Blog%29

    “Policing for Profit – The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture” http://www.copblock.org/94/policing-for-profit-the-abuse-of-civil-asset-forfeiture/

    “CIA funnels drugs to poor Americans” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0CeEKzCYCY&feature=share

    “Feds allegedly allowed Sinaloa cartel to move cocaine into U.S. for information” http://www.elpasotimes.com/ci_18608410

    “Reports: CIA Working with Mexican Drug Cartels” http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-mainmenu-26/north-america-mainmenu-36/8599-reports-cia-working-with-mexican-drug-cartels

    “‘Smash and Grab’: Property Seized During Dispensary Raids Boosts Law Enforcement Budgets”

    “NYPD Planted Drugs on People to Meet Drug Arrest Quotas” http://www.alternet.org/drugs/152727/former_detective:_nypd_planted_drugs_on_people_to_meet_drug_arrest_quotas

    “UK implicated in Afghanistan drug trade” http://www.presstv.com/detail/215748.html

    “Whenever important distribution routes are identified, in most cases links with political entities and secret services also surface.

    It seems that, at least before the illicit drug traffic reached its present monstrous proportions, was an exchange of prohibited substances for military arms and influence. Since the beginning of the seventies, however, what these people have been involved in is a business, the net profits of which exceed those of nuclear and fossil fuels combined. Protected by anonymity, there is no lack of hints that this business continues to be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, by means of production, distribution, and laundering of the resultant cash.

    What we do not know for sure is to what degree this underground empire has already become a single syndicate, such as that in existence in the last few years
    of alcohol prohibition, or whether it is still in the process of formation. Due to its nature, I feel incline to the first option, following a trend to monopoly actively encouraged by illegality.” (Antonio Escohotado)

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    Your bold assertion is based on what?

    Nothing more than self-delusion and prejudice I suggest.

    It is a fact that cannabis flourishes in the Holy Land.  It is fact that it has been used as medicine both there and here for thousands of years.  As recently as 100 years ago, 50% of all medicines in the British pharmacopeia contained cannabis.

    Are you seriously suggesting that a great healer in the Holy Land 2000 years ago would not have used cannabis?

    Do some research and discover what biblical scholars and archaeologists believe the “kaneh bosum” used in annointing oils actually consisted of.

    Jesus Christ lived in a time before the Daily Mail and the alcohol industry had started its propaganda campaign against cannabis.

  • awkwardcustomer

    If the arguments against prohibition apply to cannabis, surely they apply to heroin, cocaine and the rest. 

  • kentgeordie

     When supporters of decriminalisation argue that the only problem with cannabis is The Daily Mail and propaganda from the alcohol industry,
    we can be fairly sure that they are talking baloney, and that we can
    safely disregard their less implausible arguments.

  • kentgeordie

    Wikipedia does not support either of your contentions. Nowhere in the article on drug use in Portugal did I see the figure of 50% mentioned. And while the legal position has been altered, the recreational use of cannabis remains illegal.

  • Gerald

    You are NOTHING BUT a lobbyist for the drugs trade.

    And this is the absurdity of your position; that it is so warped and illogical, that you can’t even admit what you are in polite society: a propagandist and apologist for the drugs trade!

  • cshaws

    You’re correct Nbooks.  A war on drugs was announced by Nixon but it’s actually a War on Users of Some Non-Corporate Substances.  Thanks for pointing it out.  

  • cshaws

    Excellent idea sir.   This would immediately gift ‘control’ back to the government from organised crime and international drug cartels.  This would result in jobs, taxes, product purity, far less harm to society and users, emasculate the drugs cartels and allow the government to actually implement the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in the way it is supposed to be (i.e. control of dangerous substances rather than control of peoples free will).  Drug abuse would decrease, treatment would be available for those who need it, alcohol use would drop along with it’s huge harm and costs on society, first use age would increase and access would be restricted for the vulnerable.  Proper, factual and honest education projects could start and researchers would be free to investigate the hundreds of medical benefits (especially cannabis, mdma and psilocybin).   You should submit this amazing idea to your MP for consideration – well done.  

  • malcolmkyle

    “Evidence provides no indication that decriminalization leads to a measurable increase in marijuana use.”

    — Boston University Department of Economics

    “There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use.”

    — National Academy of Sciences

    “The preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”

    — The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research

    “The Dutch experience, together with those of a few other countries with more modest policy changes, provides a moderately good empirical case that removal of criminal prohibitions on cannabis possession (decriminalization) will not increase the prevalence of marijuana or any other illicit drug; the argument for decriminalization is thus strong.”

    — British Journal of Psychiatry

  • malcolmkyle

    The Singapore CNB (Central Narcotic Bureau) announced in September 2011 that the the 5% drop per year, which they often proudly proclaimed as proof of the effectiveness of their tough drug stance, was totally inaccurate. Arrests it seems have actually increased since 2008 contradicting Singapore’s assertion that being tough on drugs (even with mandatory death sentences) has ever been effective.


    From January to June 2011 there was a 20% increase in arrests compared to the previous year. This not only indicates that drugs are entering Singapore but also that the amount of people in Singapore using drugs is steadily and surely increasing. 


    This isn’t just a problem Singapore can claim is due to chronic drug users, as a large percentage of those being arrested are first-time users — 41% in 2008, 45% in 2009 and 46% in 2010. This clearly shows that threats of caning, harsh prison sentences and even death does nothing to deter either ‘chronic users’ or ‘first time users’.


    The government has promised to “look at the problem afresh and comprehensively”, but they’ve also pledged to maintain Singapore’s ‘zero-tolerance policy’. So no change there then, which is what we’ve come to expect from people who’s livelihood depends on an historically failed and dangerous policy.

    The Singapore government, and those who blindly support them, now have no proof whatsoever that their laws are curtailing drug smuggling or drug usage rates.

  • malcolmkyle

    Have you been living in a cave for the last decade?

    Kindly google: “clergy speak out against war on drugs”

  • malcolmkyle

    Maybe you believe that it’s immoral to use a certain drug, but if you also wish such acts to become/remain criminalized you also have to accept responsibility for the dire consequences of such un-thought-through folly. 

    Under our present prohibitionist-regime, these certain plants/concoctions/drugs are sold only by criminals and terrorists; the huge black-market profits are used to bribe and threaten law enforcement officials and commit atrocities against innocent civilians; the availability and usage rates tend to go up, not down; prisons have become filled to capacity with easily replaced users, vendors and smugglers —this list is endless!

  • Mark Nel

    I think it is plain silly and naive to think that by making drugs legal we would successfully defeat the drug lords and the illegal drugs industry.  They will adapt and use the cover of a partly legal drug system to increase their market share and just make it even more complicated for law enforcement to do their job.

  • malcolmkyle

    Maybe you should have first googled “clergy speak out against war on drugs” then you would not have attempted to make such a fool of yourself?!

    And if you knew anything about the history of prohibition then you would also have been aware of the main paragraphs from the address of His Eminence, Cardinal Dougherty, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, to the Catholic societies of the Archdiocese on New Year’s Day 1931: 

    “Having heard the report on behalf of the members of the Total Abstinence Society, it occurs to me to say that when the law prohibiting alcoholic drink was passed, many thought that there would be no further need for our temperance or total-abstinence societies. Hence the practice of giving a pledge against intoxicating liquors to boys and girls at Confirmation was discontinued. There seemed to be no need of it.”

    “But, unfortunately. Prohibition has not performed the miracles that were expected. According to experts, such as judges, public officials, social service workers, and others, there is as much, perhaps even more, drunkenness and intemperance today than before the passage of the Volstead Act.”

    “When in the past did we see young men and women of respectable families carrying a flask of liquor when going to social events? When did we see young girls, not yet of age, drinking in public, perhaps to excess, cocktails and the strongest kind of intoxicating liquors, and perhaps being overcome by them? That, today, is not an uncommon sight.”

  • malcolmkyle

    “Never been a war on drugs” ???

    “Criminalization of possession and illegal use of drugs compounded by mandatory sentencing and lengthy prison sanctions for low-level drug use has become the primary cause of mass incarceration. The global prison population has skyrocketed in the last three decades with ten million people worldwide now in jails and prisons. The extraordinary increase in the number of people now incarcerated has had tremendous implications for state and national governments dealing with global recession and a range of economic, social and political challenges. Research indicates that resources that would otherwise be spent on development, infrastructure, education and health care have been redirected over the last two decades to incarcerating drug offenders, many of whom are low-level users.” – page 3

    “Sociologists have also recently observed that the widespread incarceration of men in low-income communities has had a profound negative impact on social and cultural norms relating to family and opportunity.  Increases in the imprisonment of poor and minority women with children have now been linked with rising numbers of displaced children and dependents. Drug policy and the over-reliance on incarceration is seen by many experts as contributing to increased rates of chronic unemployment, destabilization of families and increased risk of reincarceration for the formerly incarcerated.” – page 3

    “In the United States, drug arrests have tripled in the last 25 years, however most of these arrests have been for simple possession of low-level drugs. In 2005, nearly 43% of all drug arrests were for marijuana offenses.  Marijuana possession arrests accounted for 79% of the growth in drug arrests in the 1990s. Nearly a half million people are in state or federal prisons or a local jail for a drug offense, compared to 41,000 in 1980. Most of these people have no history of violence or high-level drug selling activity” – page 4

    “With over 5 million people on probation or parole in the United States, drug use on parole or probation has become the primary basis by which thousands of people are returned to prison. These technical violations of parole or probation account for as many as 40% of new prison admissions in some jurisdictions.” – page 6


    “The “war on drugs” has also generated indirect costs that many researchers contend have undermined public safety. The federal government has prioritized spending and grants for drug task forces and widespread drug interdiction efforts that often target low-level drug dealing. These highly organized and coordinated efforts have been very labor intensive for local law enforcement agencies with some unanticipated consequences for investigation of other crimes. The focus on drugs is believed to have redirected law enforcement resources that have resulted in more drunk driving, and decreased investigation and enforcement of violent crime laws. In Illinois, a 47% increase in drug arrests corresponded with a 22% decrease in arrests for drunk driving. Florida researchers have similarly linked the focus on low level drug arrests with an increase in the serious crime index.”

    —Drug Policy, Criminal Justice and Mass Imprisonment, by Bryan Stevenson

  • malcolmkyle

    My dear Matthew, it is Prohibition that is not consistent with Catholic Doctrine!

    Prohibition has triggered the worst crime wave in history, escalating gang warfare even beyond what was experienced in the dark-days of alcohol bootlegging.

    * It has created a black market with massive incentives to hook both adults and children alike.

    * It has put previously unknown and contaminated drugs on our streets.

    * It has made these substances widely available even in schools and prisons.

    * It has created a prison-for-profit synergy with drug lords. 

    * It has helped remove many important civil liberties from the very citizens it falsely claims to represent.

    * It has grossly inflated the number of people on welfare who can’t find employment due to their felony status. 

    * It has grossly escalated Murder, Kidnapping, Extortion, Theft, Muggings and Burglaries.

    * It has diverted scarce law-enforcement resources away from protecting citizens from the ever escalating violence against their person or property.

    * It has overcrowded the courts and prisons, thus making it increasingly impossible to curtail the people who are hurting and terrorizing others.

    * It has evolved local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, helping them control vast swaths of territory while gifting them with significant social and military resources.

    Imagine if we were to chop down every single tree on the planet as a response to our failure to prevent tree-climbing accidents. That’s what our misguided drug policy looks like. Anybody (and that includes priests) not helping to end it should be considered as evil.

  • malcolmkyle

    Yes, why not?

    Maybe you believe that it’s immoral to use a certain drug, but if you also wish such acts to become/remain criminalized you also have to accept responsibility for the dire consequences of such un-thought-through folly. 

    Under our present prohibitionist-regime, these certain plants/concoctions/drugs are sold only by criminals and terrorists; the huge black-market profits are used to bribe and threaten law enforcement officials and commit atrocities against innocent civilians; the availability and usage rates tend to go up, not down; prisons have become filled to capacity with easily replaced users, vendors and smugglers —this list is endless!

    Prohibition guarantees to criminals and terrorists the power to threaten communities, and even whole states. Ending drug prohibition won’t be the complete answer to all our drug problems, just as the end of alcohol prohibition didn’t end all the problems associated with alcohol. But it will surely ameliorate the crime and violence on our streets, lessen the huge burden on our judicial system, and shrink the the immense incentives for corruption in public office. 

    Prohibition is the most destructive, dysfunctional, dishonest and racist social policy in America since Slavery. Prohibition is a holocaust in slow motion. We MUST end it NOW!

  • malcolmkyle

    Dear Simpleton

    When we regulate 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 prohibited.

    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 (illegal street dealers). 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. What we have now, due to prohibition, is a non-regulated black market to which everybody has access and where all the profits go to organized crime and terrorists.

    Prohibition causes massive crime and suffering, causes government/police corruption, causes America to have the highest prison population of any country in the history of the planet, causes Americans to lose all their rights and all their true values, causes the waste of trillions in taxpayer dollars, causes wars, causes violence and death in other countries, causes America to be hated by other countries, funds criminals, funds terrorists, causes the people who use drugs to be instant criminals who have to spend 100x the money for an inferior, adulterated, impure, unmeasured and thus unsafe product. Drug prohibition was started as a policy of racism and it perpetuates racism to this very day.

    The prisons are bursting. The police are corrupt. Many of us are not even safe in our own homes anymore and the whole country is on the verge of a total financial collapse. Please wake up!

  • Matthew Hazell

    “[I]t is Prohibition that is not consistent with Catholic Doctrine!”

    Would you like to prove that assertion with reference to some Catholic doctrine rather than your debatable political views and opinions?

    And in any case, as I said above, just because the “war on drugs” (i.e. the sort of prohibition being currently used) has failed, that does not mean legalisation is the only other option!

  • malcolmkyle

    How come you haven’t heard of “The Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative” and the documentary titled “Protestant, Catholic and Jewish Clergy Speak Out Against The War On Drugs.”?
    “I would say that the war on drugs has caused as much devastation to communities around this country, particularly low income communities, as the drugs themselves.”
    —Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director of the Greater NY Labor Religion Coalition

    “One of the reasons that we as religious leaders need to speak out against it is because we share responsibility for it.”
    —The Very Rev. Scott Richardson, Dean at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego

  • Duncan20903

    It’s quite frankly amazing that people still think that hardcore criminal penalties will keep people from choosing to enjoy cannabis. Could one of the simpletons who believe that nonsense explain the 1960s? Until 1973 every State in the Union prosecuted petty possession of cannabis as a serious felony and handed out sentences that could be expressed in decades. E.G. Virginia had a mandatory minimum prison term of 20 years with no parole eligibility for petty possession of cannabis.

    So c’mon, ‘splain it to me. Why did the rate of cannabis use in the 1960s increase over 1000% with laws like that, if the law was such a great way to keep people from trying cannabis?

    You people need to get in touch with reality. Even Indonesia can’t stop drug trafficking in its prisons and those people have laws like the cruel and short sighted believe should be in place here.
    ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———- ———-
    quoted from article linked directly above:

    “During a raid of the inmates’ cells, the unit seized 42 kilograms of
    crystal methamphetamine, known locally as shabu-shabu, having a street
    value of Rp 84 billion. Four people, including a prison guard, were

    Earlier in the month, three inmates were arrested for
    drug possession after 1.4 kilograms of marijuana were found inside the
    Kerobokan prison in Denpasar, Bali.”

  • Matthew Hazell

    Your citation of Gen. 1:29 is one of the most blatant and partisan (mis)interpretations of scripture that I have ever read.

    And I studied theology and biblical studies for 4 years, so that’s saying something!

  • malcolmkyle

    Matthew, with all due respect, while you’re asking the Tooth Fairy to stop people taking drugs, the rest of us have decided it may be time to regulate them properly. Prohibition is not regulation, it’s a hideous nightmare for all of us and our families, except of course for the lowest lifeforms amongst us.

    Because Drug cartels will always have an endless supply of ready cash for wages, bribery and equipment. No amount of tax money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safe again. Only an end to prohibition can do that! How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore an obvious and historically confirmed solution?

  • kentgeordie

    Legalization and regulation does not necessarily make the problem go away.
    The only reason the abortion reform laws were passed so easily was to deal with back-street abortions.
    Now, instead of a small number of illegal abortions, we have a huge number of legal ones.
    Without going into the rights and wrongs of abortion (please!), my point is that by making something more easily available, it is likely to become more common.
    If we disagree with drug taking, we have to debate whether the high costs mentioned by many posters are justified by the reduction in use.
    The extravagant arguments made by many posters suggest that they do not see drug taking as a social problem, and want liberalisation at all costs.
    Next up prostitution: presumably the liberalisers are in favour of municipal brothels, clean safe sex for sale under the supervision of clip-board wielding council officials?

  • malcolmkyle

    “Daft and irresponsible” are all those who wish to continue with a failed and dangerous policy.

    The damage done by prohibition is far worse than all the damage caused by all of the illegal drugs combined.

    * The U.S. comprises 5 percent of the world’s population yet uses 60 percent of the world’s drugs. The prohibition on these drugs has been waged for 70 years and has cost $1.5 trillion.

    * The harms of Prohibition encompasses everyone of us. The prohibited Drugs kill far less people than the drug war.

    * The prison system under Prohibition worsens both the drug epidemic and the AIDS epidemic.

    * A potential tax payer is turned into a tax burden every time prison is used to enforce Prohibition.

    * From many of your posts here it’s obvious that you really wish to force others to unwillingly conform to your lifestyle, ways of thinking, and narrow ideas of morality. 

    * Your group is growing smaller by the day; even rats know when it’s time to jump ship. Your beloved policy of waging war on the poor and minorities of this country has utterly failed, contributing greatly to the current mess we’re all in.

    FINALLY The realization that marijuana is NOT the evil it has been made out to be has now become Mainstream—Reefer Madness propaganda is at an end. So kindly find yourself another lost cause, and preferably another group of people who actually deserve to be hated and feared.

  • malcolmkyle

    Alcohol (United States) 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.

    Researchers led by Professor David Nutt, a former chief drugs adviser to the British government, asked drug-harm experts to rank 20 drugs (legal and illegal) on 16 measures of harm to the user and to wider society, such as damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs and crime. Alcohol scored 72 out of a possible 100, far more damaging than heroin (55) or crack cocaine (54). It is the most harmful to others by a wide margin, and is ranked fourth behind heroin, crack, and methamphetamine (crystal meth) for harm to the individual. 

    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, terrorists and corrupt law enforcement agents a huge un-taxed, endless revenue stream?

  • malcolmkyle

    Gerald, Alcohol prohibition, was a tremendous failure due to the incredible amount of crime and disorder it created. Human nature hasn’t changed since the 1930s. Then, the distribution of liquor was turned over to a whole new group of criminal entrepreneurs. Now, equally dangerous mind-altering substances are sold, totally unregulated, by a new criminal class. Similar to the 1920s, drug prohibition has, again, turned our inner cities into civil war zones. Our intentions in prohibiting these substances may well, initially, have been good, but the result of our inability to now recognize the futility of such an action will both deepen and prolong the agony caused by this failed and dangerous policy.

    The future depends on whether or not enough of us are willing to take a long look at the tragic results of prohibition. If we continue to skirt the primary issue while refusing to address the root problem then we can expect no other result than a worsening of the current dire situation. Good intentions are no match for the immutable realities of human nature.

    So may we have some realism from you now on how to go about reclaiming our streets, and the economy? Please start making an honest effort to address the root cause of the present economic mess and the high proliferation of well-funded, all-powerful violent gangs – the asinine regime of drug prohibition. 

  • malcolmkyle

    And you, Gerald, are a prohibitionist, which makes you responsible for the deaths of more than 100,000 Mexicans, during the last 6 years alone. That mega violence is heading this way fast. Re-legalizing/regulating the easily-accessible street drugs is the only sensible way to cut off the enormous flow of cash that is feeding terrorism, gangsterism and off-the-scale government corruption. This is not about facilitating ‘dopeheads’, so please keep your hate and frustrations to yourself. This is about protecting our families!

    The present drug laws are making matters far worse than they would ever be under proper legalized regulation. Your blind support of prohibition provides the money gangs use to buy guns, and the money that the enemies of this great nation use to finance hijackings and bombings. Taking away their drug money by regulating drugs for adult use will strike a blow to crime at every level. This is none other than sound public policy.

    Surely you know by now that Eliot Ness never put the bootleggers out of business? Repeal and a regulated market for alcohol did that in short order. There hasn’t been a shootout over beer routes since 1933. 

  • malcolmkyle

    Kevin, it is extremely disingenuous to compare laws that are obviously there to protect us from each other, such as those pertaining to Pedophilia, Rape and Murder, with laws solely and foolishly designed to protect individuals from themselves, such as prohibition.

    While it is true that taking any drug (especially alcohol and tobacco) can sometimes indirectly affect others, this exact same argument was used to implement and painfully prolong alcohol prohibition in the US during the 1920s. Domestic violence, wife battering and child neglect were definitely not curtailed, or even slightly ameliorated during this earlier period of insanity. 

    Not only did Prohibition increase usage http://i.imgur.com/Ga1Gs.png but it also exacerbated all other related problems while bootleggers, just like many of our present day drug lords, became rich and powerful folk heroes as a result.

    Historically, the prohibition of any mind altering substance has never succeeded in providing what is needed – which is a safer environment for the users, the addicts, their families and society at large; Prohibition always spawns far worse conditions than those it’s supporters claim to be able to alleviate. So shouldn’t we all be aware by now of the difference between sensible public policies designed to protect us, and those foolishly designed by despotic imbeciles to create as much mayhem as possible? 

  • paulpriest

     The most psychopathically genocidal president in the whitehouse – a man who deliberately filibustered, thwarted, wilfully prevented ANY Pro-Life measure..who threw a tantrum in the illinois senate to get his own way over mass-production embryonic experimentation factories and partial-birth infanticide and the murder of babies born after surviving an abortion….a man who should have ‘My heart belongs to Moloch’ tattooed on his chest…

    …a man who is going to prevent Universal Healthcare being actuated in the US because he – yes he himself – demands contraception, sterilization, abortifacient provision etc to be mandatory in the statutes…

    …a man who deliberately ordered the execution of Osama Bin Laden and his family
    Oh wait – I forgot your blogpost comments on that issue…

    Obama is…a monster!!

    …and what’s proffered re Today’s election is poxy cannabis!!!
    when if you ask any policeman they will tell you that of course cannabis should be decriminalised from an economic and soci-cultural perspective BUT keeping it within the criminal framework helps them get to the big guys and the corporate dealers in the really bad stuff – if you legalise cannabis you will NEVER be able to target or get to any of the big heroin, coke and crystal meth dealers…

    We could have another four years of a world leader who despises the unborn with every fibre of his being…so…sorry and all that but I don’t give two fiddlers for cannabis at present…

    This repeated silence on Pro-Life issues is getting irksome…

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    Well regulated. safe prostitution would be far better than unregulated people trafficking where STDs are rampant wouldn’t it?

    If any religion wants to stand any chance of surviving in our modern world where people are educated and have access to information and science, it needs to get a grip on reality and work for the benefit and safety of society, not for some dubious morality which has no real basis in the religion itself, only in the more recent prejudices and delusions of its disciples.

    Personally, my view is that there has never been a greater source of evil in our world than organised religion although clearly there are a lot of good people who follow one faith or another.  If you are to have any future though you need to get real and much more sophisticated.

  • Sour Alien

    Thats true, but we are talking about cannabis. Lets experiment with a substance safer than aspirin before we move up to hard drugs. But your right, in fact Portugal decriminalized all drugs, 10 years later we see a massive 50% drop in overall drug use, and it continues to decline. Success :) …Prohibition, undoubtedly does the opposite of reduce harm. 

  • Sour Alien

    Are you implying he smokes cannabis? 

  • Matthew Hazell

    “…while you’re asking the Tooth Fairy to stop people taking drugs…”

    It’s not really worth my time responding if you’re going to caricature my position in such a manner. However, I will just state (yet again!) that the choice is not between the current situation and legalisation – there are other options.

  • Sour Alien

    Your using wikipedia? LOL. Shame, because people such as yourself will only look for studies and articles to strengthen what you already believe. 


  • Sour Alien

    Cognitive dissonance

  • Sour Alien

    Im glad prohibition supporters, people who prefer to see criminals in control of harmful substances are the minority. 

  • Sour Alien

    “Decriminalization does not result in increased drug use. Portugal’s 10 year experiment shows clearly that enough is enough. It is time to end the war on drugs worldwide. We must stop criminalising drug users. Health and treatment should be offered to drug users – not prison. Bad drugs policies affect literally hundreds of thousands of individuals and communities across the world. We need to provide medical help to those that have problematic use not criminal retribution.” – Richard Branson Founder & Chairman of Virgin Group

    “Many people who think of themselves as the beneficiaries of prohibition are really net losers. Parents are much more at risk of losing their children under prohibition than they would be if there was some kind of system where we had some measure of control over illicit drugs.” – Peter Baume Former Australian Minister for Health, Minister for Education & Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

  • Sour Alien

    Did the sky fall in when Portugal decriminalized? 

    ”The resulting effect: a drastic reduction in addicts, with Portuguese officials and reports highlighting that this number, at 100,000 before the new policy was enacted, has been halved in the following ten years. Portugal’s drug usage rates are now among the lowest of EU member states, according to the same report.”
    This means a 50% reduction in drug use.

    Why are people either choosing to ignore this, or simply not believe it? What are they afraid of? I ssure you, things could not get any worse than they are now. Our drugs policy does nothing to reduce harm, in fact its creating it. When one dealer goes to jail, two pop up in its place. Why? Because by disallowing regulation, the government have gifted criminals the market. Indirectly of course. This war is a real war, innocent people dead or in jail, blood pouring and corruption at the highest level. All in the name of what? Being afraid of drugs? This war has ruined more lives than any drug. Its not about harm reduction, its about vested interest and fear, prejudice and lies. Time to wake up please, open your eyes and realise supporting prohibition, is supporting what drug dealers support, what alcohol companies support, what Theresa May supports. 

  • kentgeordie

    Nowhere in the Wikipedia article on drug use in Portugal is the 50% reduction figure mentioned.
    Maybe Wikipedia is not the last word (controlled by the Daily Mail, the alcohol industry and Theresa May perhaps?) but I note you do not source your quotation.
    You are keen to allude to the Portuguese experience but the verifiable facts do not seem to support your claims.

  • DavidMHart

    “I don’t see how making drugs cheaper and easier to access will lead to a decrease in their consumption over time.”

    We don’t have to make them cheaper, or easier to access. We could have a regulatory system whereby prices were fixed by the state, and where access was restricted (by zoning requirements, licensing of vendors, age limits, time-of-opening limits etc – none of which are currently available under prohibition). People hear ‘legalization’ and think that means ‘unregulated laissez-faire market’. This is almost the polar opposite of the truth – under prohibition the market is totally unregulated, whereas legalization allows us to implement a panoply of tools to control the cannabis industry.

    And even if we do make cannabis cheaper and easier to access, we can still implement policies that could lead to a decrease in their consumption over time, such as escalating taxes, honest publicity about the real health risks (as opposed to scaremongering, pretending that the worst-case scenarios are typical outcomes, which is what we have had a lot of already, and which makes the state lose credibility when it comes to other, more dangerous drugs), properly funding abstinence-based services for those who want to quit (which we will have more tax money available to do once we have stopped spending it on policing, courts and prisons for non-violent, otherwise law-abiding cannabis users) etc.

    “The only way to do that is to dissuade people from ever taking them in
    the first place. And that is only achieved through the imposition of
    hard penalties for their possession and use.”

    This is manifestly untrue. How have we achieved the reduction in tobacco use that we have? By escalating taxes, honest publicity about the health risks, abstinence-based services for those who want to quit, etc. Not by arresting and jailing adults simply for the possession of tobacco (a drug which is a significantly greater health hazard than cannabis, by the way, and significantly more addictive, even though its short-term mind altering properties are not as powerful)

    “‘A single category of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession
    of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second
    offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence,
    and so on…..’”

    There is a reason we treat murderers more harshly than armed assailants, and armed assailants more harshly than unarmed assailants. This is the strong intuition, shared by almost everyone, that a punishment ought to fit a crime – that the more harm a behaviour poses to society, the more strongly the state is justified in deterring that behaviour with tough punishments. Now, even if you think that the possession of a drug is an act of evil grave enough to merit depriving someone of their liberty (I’ve never heard a convincing argument for this position, but am open to it if someone can demonstrate it), it is absurd to think that possession of a drug like cannabis, one of the least life-threatening of all the currently-prohibited drugs, is comparable to diamorphine (heroin) or crack cocaine, among the most addictive addictive and life-threatening. Put simply, it is manifestly unjust to punish two people identically, when the deed one has committed is whole orders of magnitude more dangerous than the other’s. This is precisely why we have the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act – it was an attempt to make the punishment fit the crime by tiering drugs into different risk categories and having more sever penalties for the most dangerous. Of course, the fact that alcohol and tobacco are both excluded, despite being more dangerous than several of the currently-prohibited drugs, does damage the credibility of this system, as does the fact that, whenever the panel of experts the Government appointed to make recommendations about drug risks has recommended a drug be prohibited, or elevated to a higher class, the Government has complied, and yet whenever the same panel has recommended moving a drug to a lower class, the Government has ignored it (with the sole exception of cannabis, moved from Class B to Class C during David Blunket’s tenure as Home Secretary – and even then, they actually moved the goalposts by  the penalties for trafficking a Class C drug to be the same as for a Class B drug). But the principle is still sound – if we are to be in the business of criminalising drug users at all, it is clearly unjust to have a system that refuses to take into account the relative risks of the different drugs.

  • DavidMHart

     “Again, there never has been a “war on drugs”, alas.”

    Is the number of people currently in jail for possession of a drug
    a) zero, or
    b) greater than zero?

    Is the number of people killed in the course of law enforcement actions against drug users and sellers

    a) zero, or
    b) greater than zero?

    If you honestly answered ‘a’ both times, then you are right to believe that there has never been a war on drugs (or, as it should more accurately have been called, a war on people who use drugs). But I recommend you read a newspaper some time.

  • http://www.peter-reynolds.co.uk Peter Reynolds

    Back of the net David.  Superb job!

  • DavidMHart

     Actually, the choice is between the current situation and legalization, because legalization is not a single policy proposal, it is “every single policy proposal apart from those in which the default position is that the possession of a drug is a criminal offence”. You don’t have legalization at one end of a scale and prohibition at the other – you have prohibition at one end, and legalization is everything else on that scale right up until you hit ‘totally unregulated libertarian free market’ at the other. Within ‘legalization’ you have a vast array of possible regulatory schemes which could be applied, from loose to strict, and, for any given drug, the optimum set of regulations will be that which minimises overall harm to society – and there is absolutely no reason to presume that a position that hands over the entirety of the trade in a drug to organised criminals is going to be that optimum position.

    I strongly recommend, by the way, that you read Transform Drug Policy Foundation’s book Blueprint for Regulation (available as a free download from their website), which spells out exactly the kinds of regulatory systems we would have at our disposal after we take back back control of the drugs industry from the criminal gangs that now dominate it.

  • DavidMHart

    “I do have a problem with the government saying it’s OK.”

    You do appreciate, though, that ‘the government saying it’s OK’ is not the same as ‘the government saying it’s not OK, but criminalizing people who use it is not the solution’?

    Also, if it is true that the cannabis of today is more addictive than that of yesteryear, then this is something that has happened under prohibition, and which could be reversed after legalization.
    We regulate alcohol – we tax it according to how strong it is – and that means we can have a direct financial nudge towards lower-strength (safer) drinks. We also have laws regulating what you can and can’t put in it – so that the addition of toxic additives is strongly disincentivised.

    We can do none of those things with cannabis unless we take control of the trade out of the hands of unregulated criminal profiteers and put it in the hands of licensed producers.

  • Sour Alien

    Why do you want this war to continue? You seem desperate…strange

    This is the second time, and last time i will post this link for you


  • Patrickhowes

    Shocking article Father Alexander.

  • Patrickhowes

    A disgraceful departure from the Magisterium of the Church and a betrayal of the Holy Father and his Superior knowledge of human kind.Very disappointed in you Father Alex

  • DavidMHart

     “So you think that drug use will decline if drugs are more easily available?”
    Drug use doesn’t have to decline for legalization to be the right option. Drug-related harm is what we should be worried about. If more people start to use a drug, then, all other things being equal, harm will increase. But other things are extravagantly not equal. The state currently locks people away for drug possession, and gives them criminal records which will damage their prospect for the rest of their lives. That is a harm that will disappear post-prohibition. The black market allows more dangerous forms of cannabis to flourish, whereas post-prohibition we can regulate so as to encourage the least dangerous forms. Prohibition makes over the entire profits of the industry to organised criminals, resulting in an orgy of bloodshed in places like Mexico, Colombia, Afghanistan etc. That is a harm that can be greatly reduced post-prohibition.

    “And that the criminals put out of business by legalisation will give up their wicked ways?”
    Of course not. But the opportunities for making a living out of crime will be greatly reduced once the single most important revenue stream which is currently reserved only for those who are willing to break the law has been taken away from them. It is much easier to make money selling drugs than it is using violent crimes like armed robbery, mugging, extortion, kidnapping etc – because in the case of selling drugs, neither the buyer nor the seller has any incentive to go to the police, whereas with a violent crime they will – they want to see the person who robbed them brought to justice. It also takes a lot more guts to commit a violent crime, where there’s a real risk your victim will fight back, than to commit a consensual crime, where both parties are in agreement with each other about what they want from the transaction. And remember that, once we stop treating drug use as a criminal matter, the entirety of our police budget can be turned over to genuinely victim-creating crimes, thus making violent criminals more likely to be caught. So there will still be criminals. But a hell of a lot of them will have power reasons to ‘go straight’ that we can only bring to bear by taking the drugs market away from them.

    Thus there will be
    a) less money available for criminals overall, and
    b) stronger deterrence against earning a living by crime
    once we end prohibition. Sure, it won’t be a perfect solution, but the current situation is awful. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘the perfect is the enemy of the good’? Well, drug prohibition is an ideal example of that principle in action.