Saturday 26 January 2013

Now the Drugs (Prohibition) Don't Work

An article in the Daily Mail this week reported that tragically five young people have died after taking contaminated ecstasy tablets. I'm certainly not going to suggest that ecstasy is a safe drug under any circumstances, but the fact that it's criminalised undoubtedly makes it a whole lot more dangerous. There seems to be a parallel here with the prohibition of alcohol in the United States during the twenties and thirties, the following quote from Johann Hari illustrates the point:

Once a product is controlled only by criminals, all safety controls vanish and the drug becomes far more deadly. After 1921, it became common to dilute and relabel poisonous industrial alcohol, which could still legally be bought, and sell it by the pint glass. This "rotgut" caused epidemics of paralysis and poisoning. For example, one single batch of bad booze permanently crippled 500 people in Wichita, Kan., in early 1927—a usual event. That year, 760 people were poisoned to death by bad booze in New York City alone. Wayne Wheeler persuaded the government not to remove fatal toxins from industrial alcohol, saying it was good to keep this "disincentive" in place.”

People taking substances to alter their perception of the world is a practice that has gone on since before the time we lived in caves and will still be going on when we're colonising Mars. How moral is it for one group in society (the government) to use violence to restrict this practice, when the consequence of doing so is the endangerment of the lives of all who engage in it?

The full article by Johann Hari is available at the link above. Hari draws many parallels between alcohol prohibition and the modern day prohibition of drugs, including the power it hands to criminals, the inherent racism of policies and criminalisation of vast numbers of otherwise law abiding citizens.


  1. Although I agree that the legalisation of ecstasy drugs would tend to make the product less toxic, I disagree with it's decriminalisation.

    My understanding of the role of government is essentially insurance underwriting. It is true that the use of ecstasy can cause medical conditions requiring treatment.

    Should the patient's (worn out drug taker's) insurer (government) decide that the customer's (citizen's) lifestyle is uninsurable they have only two principal options; scrap universal healthcare or outlaw the uninsurable lifestyle.

    To me this is the same reason why the government legally make you wear a seatbelt when you are in a car.

    Alternatively you could scrap government and choose to insure yourself privately.

    Without wanting to change the slant of my reply and your argument. I would like to say that the government charge far too much for their services.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    Outlawing drugs doesn't make them go away, people take them whether they are illegal or not, only what they take is considerably more dangerous and likely to lead to higher NHS bills and of course court costs.

    To me it is a moral issue, if somebody produces a drug sells that drug to someone else who proceeds to consume it, no crime has been committed. Nobody should have a right to throw either of these two individuals into a cage for months or years of their lives, this is the real moral outrage!

    I'll post more on the war on drugs over time, but as you brought it up, below is a link to a video by economist Bob Murphy where (starting 6:28) he address how seat belt laws actually increase fatalities in traffic accidents.

    I increasingly agree that scrapping the government and opting for private insurance would be better.

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