Daily Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS
Commentary by Dr. Anthony Daniels
Why we have to fight the legalisers.
Every father must dread the arrest of his teenage son for dealing in drugs. When, however, a father is a senior Cabinet Ministers in a government which has said it will not countenance softening the law against drugs, but is under intense pressure from its own supporters to bring that about, the shame and embarrassment of the father must be almost unbearable.
A word of sympathy is in order for the Minister faced with the duty of taking his own son to the police station to make a confession.
The incident should not deflect the Government from its admirable resolve not to give in to the legalisation lobby. That lobby will use the fact that a Cabinet Minister's son deals in drugs to argue that the fight against drugs is already lost: the only choice left now is the unconditional surrender. If middle classes and underclass are united in their consumption of illegal drugs, the argument in favour of decriminalisation - they will say - is irresistible.
But the reasoning is spurious and should not be heeded. Our society has slid down quite enough slippery slopes already.
It is alleged that cannabis is virtually harmless. This is not so. Yesterday alone, I saw two patients, one of whom became temporarily deranged under the influence of cannabis and tried to kill himself with an overdose, and another who, also under the influence of cannabis, put his hand through a window, deliberately sawed at his wrist with the broken glass, and refused all treatment.
When cannabis is as widely used as alcohol, it is highly probable that the harm it causes will be found to be very considerable indeed. By then it will be too late to do anything about it.
It is argued that the criminality associated with drug-taking is a consequence not of the drugs themselves, but of their prohibition. This is a little like arguing that the real cause of theft and burglary is private property.. If nobody owned anything, nobody could steal anything. And I am not at all sure that the drug-dealers whom I daily encounter in prison would turn their minds to landscape gardening or helping old ladies cross the road if the prohibition of drugs were removed.
So longs as the sale of any drug were illegal to any group of people they would push it. No one has suggested drugs should be made freely available to children, for example. The dealers would therefore target them immediately.
Holland is one of the most crime-ridden countries in Europe despite its comparatively liberal drug laws. The famous coffee-shops of Amsterdam, where cannabis is freely available, have done nothing to reduce the crime rate.
It isn't even true that if drugs were legalised, and obtainable more or less as alcohol is now, the interference of the authorities in our lives would be reduced - on the contrary, the powers of the state and other authorities over us would have to increase drastically.
The fact is that the consumption of drugs (including alcohol) is influenced by price and ease of availability. This is certainly true of alcohol, and there is no reason to suppose that it would be different for cocaine, amphetamines, heroin and cannabis if we could buy them as we buy chocolate.
For the criminality associated with drug-taking to decrease, drugs would have to be cheap; but if they were cheap, enormous quantities of them would be taken. Those in jobs which could not be performed safely under the influence of such drugs would have to submit themselves constantly to tests. Police powers would be drastically increased, not reduced.
It isn't even true that if you give addicts their drug free of charge, they stop committing crimes. A quarter of Glaswegians prescribed methodone are arrested every year, and three-fifths of them are sentenced to prison. Many of them use the Methadone they have been given to fund the purchase of drugs they prefer by selling their prescription to others. Society ends up with two addicts for the price of one, as well as equal and greater levels of crime.
Legalisation of drugs is yet another plank in the platform of those who think that the good society is the one in which everyone pursues his own pleasure in his own way, regardless of the consequences to others. But egotistical hedonism not only makes for an unpleasant society (people who play their music very loudly just because they like it that way do not make good neighbours), but is deeply unsatisfying to the But egotistical hedonists themselves. Show me a habitual taker of drugs, and I will show you an unhappy and unfulfilled man. The freedom to take drugs is simply not worth having.
The vast majority of parents do not want their children to take drugs. The likelihood of their children doing so would be enormously increased by legalisation, for despite its failures, prohibition - even when incompetently and half-heartedly enforced, as it is at present - does reduce the quantities of drugs taken.
The Government should not listen to the siren-song of the legalisers. They wish for a society with no restraints on personal conduct or in the search for pleasure. But the pleasures of drugs are trivial and the harms substantial. Far from legalising their consumption, we should show that we are serious about reducing it. Our efforts are feeble, and if the police now agree with the legalisers, a s largely they do, it is because they are defeatists, not only about drugs, but about all crime whatsoever.
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