Monday, 29 October 2007

The solution to our crime wave

For every complex problem” said the great HL Menken, “there is a solution that is clear, simple – and wrong”. There is one exception however – the crime wave that’s brought New York rates of murder to Dublin. This crime wave can be solved at a stroke. Seriously.

Ireland’s crime, like that in most of the Western world, is driven by the criminalisation of drugs. It’s not in dispute that the bulk of crime either directly, i.e. drug dealers doing their thing, or indirectly, desperate users robbing to feed their habit, is drug-related. The simple solution therefore is to legalise drugs. Or should I say, the drugs currently classed as illegal. For don’t forget that two of the most lethal drugs, nicotine, the most addictive and alcohol, one of the most damaging, are both perfectly legal.

Consider the following:

The current war on drugs is an absolute failure as illegal drugs are now cheaper and more plentiful than ever before. Police interceptions, proudly touted with ‘street values’ of x millions, achieve nothing other than temporarily raise the cost to the user. Which in turn increases his need to mug and rob.

How in any meaningful sense is the current regime any different to the doomed Prohibition in the US all those years ago? If there’s a demand for a ‘product’, people will pay to get it. If they can't get it legally, criminals will fill the gap.

Cocaine, heroin and speed are all hugely damaging, but not significantly more than the legal drugs. Arguably, they’re less damaging to health than nicotine, and less damaging to life and limb than excess use of alcohol.

The law enforcement resources poured into the war on drugs are at the expense of more practical alternatives (e.g. rape, house-breaking, street violence).

Methadone is for all practical purposes a drug like heroin – it occupies the same opiate receptor in the brain. Yet methadone is ‘good’.

The solution is – really is – simple:
Regulate the sale of all drugs in the same way as alcohol is now regulated. This will ensure the quality of the drugs, variances in which are the cause of many problems today. Tax them just like we now tax other drugs. The vast funds saved by eliminating the police and jailing costs, together with the tax revenues, can be applied to a major ongoing educational programme to deter potential users and to wean others off.

As Richard Brunston of the North Wales Police Authority says, "if policy on drugs is in future to be pragmatic not moralistic, driven by ethics not dogma, then the current prohibitionist stance will have to be swept away as both unworkable and immoral, to be replaced with an evidence-based unified system (specifically including tobacco and alcohol) aimed at minimisation of harms to society. “Prohibition has created a crisis in the criminal justice system, destabilised producer countries and undermined human rights worldwide.

By pursuing a policy of legalisation and regulation, the Government will dramatically reduce drug-related criminality and will enable significant funds to be transferred from law enforcement to harm reduction and treatment procedures that are known to work”.

Thanks you Richard, couldn’t have said it better myself


rob said...

Governments like drugs: the abuse of them provides them with a pretext for introducing all manner of draconian laws.

SAVANT said...

Thats true - and they also provide a lot of other stakeholders with large budgets to play around with.

chase the dragon said...

The problem is that every country would need to do it, else you'd have everyone coming here to avail.

SAVANT said...

Everyobdy's coming here anyway.

Anonymous said...

They tried this in Switzerland some years ago, but as far as I know they got swamped with junkies.

Anonymous said...

Too many vested interests in this space for anything fundamental to change.

Adam Wallace said...

Governments like drugs because their security services are up to the eyeballs trafficking them.

SAVANT said...

@Adam Wallace. Also so many jobs, and hence votes, depend on it. Police, judges, prison personnel, security system vendors etc.