Pigs, Drugs, and Capitalism

Legalise marijuana, heroin, cocaine, speed, LSD, Ecstasy, opium, mushrooms, mescalin, ketamine, peyote and ether! Provide accurate information on drugs to people of all ages! Fund independent scientific and social research into drugs! Supply cheap and safe prescribed drugs through doctors and pharmacies! Send every pig that’s ever made a drug bust, every MP that’s made the war on drugs into law, and every judge who’s sent a user to prison straight to the ultra-violent, rape-filled, mentally abusive, soul destroying & life-stealing institutions they fill with innocent victims every day! Free all drug prisoners! Make a society where taking drugs can enrich lives rather than destroy them! Fight fear, misinformation, profit & prejudice!

Are you completely crazy?

Not at all. Simon, from the International Socialist Organisation, argues that a number of vital questions need to be answered in any discussion about illegal drugs.

“But drug use leads to violence/theft/assault/burglary/vandalism/rape/child molestation/immorality and murder!”

Prohibition forces some people (especially the less wealthy) into crime due to the addictiveness of cut drugs, the criminal contacts necessary to buy them, and the extreme expense of non-prescribed substances. “Crime” statistics are far more closely related to poverty and social inequality than drug use.

“But people have to be punished for breaking the law!”

If a law is unjust, then breaking it is justified. Should people be sent to prison for opposing apartheid, going on strike, fighting for women’s right to vote, being a pacifist, stealing food for a starving family or having an abortion? Laws are historical, if they’re bad, the point is to change them! And what does punishment actually mean? In Australia 26% of those imprisoned report being victims of sexual assaults in jail with young offenders being most at risk. Is rape a suitable punishment for drug use?

Perhaps sentencing should be altered to reflect the actual punishment metered out – i.e. “I sentence you to 12 months imprisonment, three bashings by prison officers, one rape by fellow inmates, the humiliation and degradation of any friends and family who visit, and infection with Hepatitis C.”

Now that’s “truth in sentencing.”

“If the majority of New Zealanders wanted change, they would have voted for it!”

When has there ever been a referendum on legalisation? When has there ever even been accurate information available on legalisation? And when do we actually get what we vote for? Remember the EUB?

Don’t rely on politicians’ promises – they have a proud history of breaking them! Policy change on important issues has never been brought about through simply voting-in the right benevolent politicians, no matter how well meaning they may be. Change comes through social pressure and activism. We have to push MPs into passing fairer laws – it’s in our interest, not theirs!

“But we’ve got to protect the children!”

Prohibition doesn’t protect children, it exposes them to misinformation, crime, harassment, fear, ignorance and cut drugs of dangerous quality. Prohibition has never stopped young people from taking drugs. Prohibition often causes children to try “alternative” drugs such as datura that are sometimes very dangerous, hard to control dosage-wise and even harder to find out vital information about. And legalisation wouldn’t force drugs on children, there could be safeguards such as a minimum age for supply, and remember: increased education and information would lead to safer outcomes.

“Just Say No!”

Abstinence is a failed message that has proved completely unsuccessful and enormously damaging in every area where it has been applied. “Just Say No” campaigns in schools, be they relating to sex education or drug and alcohol programmes are unrealistic – if something is enjoyable, people don’t “Just Say No” without good reasons. “Just Say No” campaigns often exclude real education and availability of information on the subject in case this information leads people to actually say “Yes,” and they are after all the product of a religious morality not relevant to the majority of people today.

“But if drugs are illegal, they will be harder to get!”

There is little evidence that the prohibition of marijuana for example, has led to a decrease in supply – in fact, the availability of marijuana in NZ, and its usage has steadily increased over the last two decades. If drugs are illegal, they are very hard to control, legalisation gives much greater possibility for control and monitoring through doctors and pharmacies, if that control and monitoring is actually needed.

“Soft drug use leads to hard drug abuse!”

The distinction between soft and hard drugs is a false one, based on no general scientific agreement. What is a “hard” drug? One that can lead to hallucinations? Memory loss? Antisocial behaviour? Sounds like alcohol doesn’t it?! The health and social effects of drugs have far less to do with which “class’ they fall under in law, than history, profit and politics. The arguments that try to separate drugs into hard and soft are mostly based on media misinformation, and the propaganda of various interest groups such as alcohol companies and tobacco manufacturers.

“Look, it’s time to get tough on crime. More police, widerpowers and tougher sentences are what we need!”

Drug use should not be a crime! More police are a waste of money and much more. The police already spend over $60 million per year relating to the Misuse of Drugs Act. NZ police arrest cannabis users at a rate 50% higher than even the US. Every year about 15,000 people are arrested on about 25,000 cannabis charges. 85% of those are for small personal offences. The United States, our policy model, now has over 2,000,000 people in prison, over 500,000 of whom are there for non-violent drug offences. Tougher sentences do not, and have never led to a decrease in offending or re-offending.

The developed country with the highest rate of imprisonment, longest sentences and most executions, the USA, also has the highest rate of serious crime. Tougher sentences fill up jails with more innocent users, subjected to the inhumanity and injustice of the prison system, while also hiding real levels of social dissatisfaction and unemployment. The fact that 10% of employment aged black Americans from impoverished districts in the United States are currently in prison has in part been credited with the fall in unemployment figures in the last decade. Relevant to New Zealand?

“Legalisation would give a green light to Gangs and underworld crime!”

33% of Gang members in prison are affiliated to the Mongrel Mob, 36% to Black Power. 55% of New Zealand prison inmates are Maori. 10% are Pacific Islanders. The Gang Spectre is at best a rather blatantly racist argument used to keep the “average” New Zealander in a state of fear, to argue for increased police and judicial powers, and to keep the most oppressed people in New Zealand underfoot, unheard, and in prison. If the government were really concerned with combating the “criminal underworld,” then prohibition, which forces drug manufacture and distribution into the hands of “criminals” would be replaced immediately with a system that puts manufacture and distribution in the hands of “responsible citizens” – ie legalisation.

“Drugs are harmful to your health / smoking marijuana leads to infertility, memory loss, a lack of motivation and will shrink the testes / LSD use induces schizophrenia and psychosis / if you smoke crack once, you’re either addicted for life or dead / methamphetamine or “speed” rots the nasal passages and leads to violent and antisocial behaviour / IV drug use has caused an HIV epidemic / Ecstasy users may literally dance themselves to death!”

Most drugs do have negative effects on your health. But keep things in perspective! The legal drug tobacco is 10 times as addictive as proscribed heroin. According to Health Minister Annette King, in the years 1994-96 the illegal drug cannabis was responsible for one death, the legal substance alcohol was directly responsible for 419 deaths and directly implicated in another 509. We will never have accurate information about what the real effects of drugs on health are, until scientists and social researchers are allowed to legally study these substances.

Prohibition not only leads to misinformation, but also makes drugs far more addictive and worse for you than they might otherwise have been. If something is potentially bad for you, should we actually ban it? Lets ban rock climbing, driving, swimming, eating and sex. That’ll fix the problem!

Any drug can be made evil and dangerous – simply ban it. If caffeine were made illegal tomorrow (and the idea has been proposed more than once), we would soon have gangsters selling baggies of alleged “coffee” cut with everything from rat poison to Sudafed. Coffee OD cases would fill the A&Es, prices would go up so wildly that coffee addicts would soon begin to steal to support their habit, and users would begin injecting highly concentrated caffeine to get more bang for their buck, in the process passing on all sorts of needle-borne diseases.

“Well I don’t need drugs to have a good time!”

Good for you buddy, but this is no argument against legalisation. Legalisation doesn’t make people use drugs, it simply gives them enough information and a suitable environment so that if they choose, they can use drugs safely.