The prohibition of illegal drugs in our society has clearly failed. Not only has it resulted in it being the number one cause of crime, but it is also the quickest way for a smart criminal to become a member of the ruling class — a “business” leader. This in turn raises the stakes in dodgy business monopolistic tendencies while at the same time demeans the altruism of Western culture that demands of anybody in a privileged class the quality of noblesse oblige — the responsibility of the wealthy and powerful to act with generosity and humility toward those less privileged.
If the sound reasoning for prohibiting what are deemed to be harmful products or practice are weighed against the effects of making harmful products freely available, probably the wisest judgement would be to allow them to become freely available.
A few months ago, in a national newspaper, there was a photo of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan, dressed in the latest million-dollar hi-tech military uniform equipped with night-scope, wireless satellite communication with his nearby platoon, holding a very powerful automatic rifle, protecting — wait for it— a field of opium poppies!
“Well” I thought, “That’ll be sure to have the pollies jumping up and down to get our armed forces out of Afghanistan in a hurry!”
I was wrong! Not a whimper. Not a letter to the paper, no editorial, Canberra was in typical party mode (and I don’t mean Political Party mode), Hawthorn beat Collingwood, and Kylie Minogue was reported to be coming to Australia.
I asked myself:
• Why was the soldier guarding a field of heroin when we all know that heroin is such an extremely dangerous drug?
• Who was he guarding it for — the big businessmen in the US, in league with the drug lords in Afghanistan?
• Does the soldier’s presence reward and strengthen and concentrate the power of the drug lords,
• Does the soldier’s presence help the people of Afghanistan,
• Does the soldier’s presence further enslave the people of Afghanistan,
• Is it because the drug industry is so powerful and persuasive in the US that they are able to con their soldiers (and ours) to defend their drug supply lines?
• Why does our government leave our Australian soldiers there?
The facts are as follows.
• Counter-narcotics efforts have actually deepened corruption in Afghanistan and hurt the poorest Afghans.
• Drug trade in Afghanistan is consolidated in the hands of a few powerful war lords and the Afghan Government, which is arguably more democratic than the war lords.
• Why Big Business vilifies the Taliban is because if the Taliban wins the war, they will use the proceeds of heroin sales to the US to attack the US — a literal double-whammy.
• Opium takes up less than 4% of the cultivated areas of Afghanistan.
• Opium economy accounts for one third of the total economic activity of Afghanistan.
• 90% of global illegal opium output comes from Afghanistan. Even Australia produces enough opium for medicinal purposes.
• Opium over-production is rising to a production estimated to exceed the global demand by thirty percent
• Opium production in Afghanistan has been on the rise since the downfall of the Taliban in 2001. Based on UN data, there has been more opium poppy cultivation in each of the four growing seasons from 2004–2007 than in any one year during Taliban rule.
• More land is now used for opium in Afghanistan than for coca cultivation (for cocaine) in Latin America. In 2007, 93% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan.
• This amounts to an export value over $70 billion, with only a quarter being divided among 200,000 opium farmers, the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords and drug traffickers.
• In addition to opiates, Afghanistan is also the largest producer of hashish in the world.
• Heroin is inexpensive to produce, but it was made artificially expensive and lucrative for the traffickers as the direct result of its world-wide prohibition.
Accepted research finds that reclassifying illegal drugs to be legal actually increases the use of dangerous drugs of choice, rather than lessening it. There are many cultures that embrace illegal drugs, including our own, where questionable drugs such as caffein and alcohol are an accepted part of our daily life. They are deemed to be manageable, and since all drugs alter our way of thinking or behaving in some way, a judgement is made as to whether the drugs are more beneficial than detrimental. Drugs like cocaine and heroin are readily available for medicinal use but are prohibited for recreational use. Many aspects of life, at various eras and in differing cultures, are deemed to be harmful to the people or the conventions of our society. For instance, we abhor and prohibit infanticide, but in many cultures, this is deemed to be correct and righteous.
The advantages of availability
• It would force our elected representatives to govern the country, instead of lazily sitting back and letting Big Business govern us.
• It would starve those traffickers of their funding to control legitimate Big Business
• The now illegal drugs would be able to be grown and used legally
• It would restore business power to the people who achieved their power by more acceptable processes than by trafficking in illegal drugs.
• It would force parents to really parent their children and not let them kill themselves with illegal drugs
• It would force our elected representatives to police and properly audit the drug trade instead of the way in which those who now police drug use are given a very dim green light to prevent drug abuse.
• By letting the market-place control the amount produced and price of heroin instead of a few warlords in Afghanistan and many businessmen in the US, the price would plummet. Afghan farmers would return to food production and nobody would want to take over such a desert country with a subsistence economy.
One may well ask, if we decide to de-criminalise the supply of harmful drug, should we also make nuclear weapons freely available to those who can afford them? The answer is we already do. Iran is being allowed to “buy” nuclear weapons, and the world’s police forces have been stripped of their powers to prevent it. Why they have been stripped is probably because of the very reason why illegal drugs are so omnipresent — because the same kind of amoral businessmen live happily amongst the immoral drug operators who are more powerful than all “free market” governments. A good case in point is the way in which oil companies pay mere lip service to transparency, safety and responsibility — because they are so pwerful, they can.
If prohibition was ended, one can predict that, at first, many young people will accidentally overdose or suicide until structures within societies are established such as proper care for children, proper parenting, adequate warning, education, publicity, heavier penalties for non regulated sales and illegal imports. It would force a re-examination of the concept of freedom and freedom of choice.
I believe that responsibility is the price that we must pay for freedom. At present, we are not paying that cost. Sooner or later we will be forced to pay, and the illegal drug issue is a growing peril for civilisation itself. A sufficient imperative to bite the inevitable bullet.