Monday, 13 October 2008

Ignore the right-wing press, downgrading was working

The downgrading of cannabis from Class B to Class C has resulted in a fall in usage of the drug amongst all age groups, a drop in strength of most strains of the drug, and a decline in the number of arrests for using the drug, freeing police to concentrate on more serious matters. This is strong evidence that the downgrading policy, initiated in 2004, is working.

Despite this, however, and in the wake of a string of scare stories by the Daily Mail linking cannabis use to mental illness, murder, and even Satanism, the government has rejected its succesful policy and reclassified the drug as a Class B. This announcement was followed by the warning of "new penalties" when the drug is upgraded in January., from Home Secretary Jaqui Smith:
While cannabis has always been illegal, reclassifying it to a class B drug reinforces our message to everyone that it is harmful and should not be taken. Fewer people are taking cannabis, but it is crucial that this trend continues. I am extremely concerned about the use of stronger strains of cannabis, such as skunk, and the harm they can cause to mental health.
One has to wonder about Smith's motives here. If she indeed desires that "this trend continues" of reduced cannabis use, then why go against the policy behind responsible for the trend in the first place? And how can she be "concerned about the use of stronger strains of cannabis" and mental health issues when the evidence shows the strength of most strains is decreasing and the actual result of the study that the Mail hailed as "proof" of a link to psychosis was ambiguous at best? More importantly, on what grounds can she justify pandering to the conservative demagoguery of the Tabloid media when it has been shown, notably by the UK Drug Report 2001, that the current policies, which Smith is dragging us back to by "toughening up our enforcement response" are failing miserably. But her "harder line on enforcement," as with the entire policy of the War on Drugs, will only serve to make things worse.

Aside from defying the basic libertarian principle that people should be free to do as they will, whether smart or foolish, as long as they are not causing harm to others (an argument that the right-wing press can, rightly, apply in relation to the far more harmful pastime of smoking tobacco) there is also the fact that "Drug War" policies only exacerbate the problems. This has been noted numerous times in reports and studies showing that such policies are a faliure, do nothing to stem the supply for narcotics, and serve only to hand the trade over to organised crime.

And, whether cannabis or cocaine, these same results will always ensue as long as nations put aside all the evidence pointing to the need for legalisation, or at least decriminalisation and regulation, for fear of upsetting the reactionaries in the media.