Joshua Taylor, Digital Associate Editor at The Gryphon, discusses the hypocrisy surrounding UK drugs policy, and challenges what freedoms we hold most dear in our society.
The last week brought tidings of the latest absurdities when the government published, and apparently ignored, reports from the Home Office which suggested penalisation for the possession of illegal drugs does not deter the number of users. Home Office minister Norman Baker, a supporter of these findings, subsequently resigned after his view that UK drug policy needs to be ‘rational and evidence based’ fell on deaf ears.
And it is clear that this theme of ignorance has remained ever-present inside the archaic Westminster club: over the past 40 years, the government has continued to harden its stance on illegal drugs by penalising ‘offenders’ with hopes that it’d deter them, and it is clear that this has, and continues to, fail miserably. The resignation of Norman Baker comes at a blow to any hopes that our current drugs policy has a chance of changing anytime soon; as a minister, he was a key voice in the government.
“This theme of ignorance has remained ever-present inside the archaic Westminster club”
It has to be asked; can anything be more disgusting than to hear those who are employed by the tax payer, and called “educated”, to disregard so blatantly, evidence which indicates that currently, our policy on illegal drugs is clearly not working to the population’s desired effect? That even in the case of Professor David Nutt, who was once the governments chief drug advisor, who was sacked after stating that cannabis and LSD are less harmful than cigarettes and alcohol, was essentially doing his job by providing the latest scientific evidence, is thrown out onto the street. The best that can be said of this situation in particular is that it is the clearest sign of stupidity, of intellectual narrowness; an ignorance which only leads to resentfulness of the political establishment.
“His view that UK drug policy needs to be ‘rational and evidence based’ fell on deaf ears”
In light of this, it is my view that there is a clear mis-match between scientific evidence and advice made upon such findings, to the policies enacted by parties with agendas that continue to negate this evidence completely. The evidence can also be measured in countries like Switzerland, whose recent progressive drug reforms have subsequently led to a decrease in crime rates, demonstrating that changes in drug laws have clear benefits.
It should be questioned whether this is the relationship the government wishes to have with the scientific community. An oft-repeated political trope refers to how Britain should be ‘punching above its weight’ and setting an example for other countries to follow. So while we’re at it, let’s bring creationism back into children’s science lessons; why not become a world-leader in spouting bullshit while we’re at it?
Exaggerations aside, this ignorance is rather serious. It’s concerning that well-informed individuals are refused the right, with threat of incarceration, to ingest chemicals into their own bodies. Bodies which, a long tradition of human rights legislation has given themselves agency over. It is absurd that, for example, a student could be thrown out of university for possessing a minimal amount of cannabis for personal consumption, and yet, perhaps on the same day, can be tempted through the doors of a nightclub with promise of a deliriously toxic, and provably more harmful supply of a different narcotic: alcohol.
“Our current legislation surrounding illegal drugs just isn’t working”
Since the debate surrounding our drugs policy is sure to endure, it may be worth taking a step back, and reflecting on how we wish to see our ‘free society’ proceed. Of course, there is no denying that drugs, both legal and illegal, can be incredibly dangerous and can destroy the lives of many, but our current legislation surrounding illegal drugs just isn’t working. I, and many others, are adamant that drug policy should be reasoned and discussed, and based on the best available science, without pandering to the agenda of the political class. It may be important for us to evaluate the freedoms we hold most dear, and fight the system that oppresses and strips us of our rights more often. The results could be beautiful. As the French say, Il faut souffrir pour être belle. Without suffering, there is no beauty.