he blogs at Organized Rage.Guest writer Mick Hall with a contribution to the discussion on the drugs issue. Mick Hall is a long time left wing activist and
Legalise and regulate illicit drugs: Let's talk about it not push it back into the closet.
One doesn't have to be an advocate for drug use to understand the war on drugs has been a complete disaster, one need only search out the hard facts. It delivers users into the hands of criminals and in the process criminalises millions of people who in all probability would never come into conflict with the criminal justice system.
We can prance around the edges as some of the commentators to the Quill's No Dope thread attempted to do, or take the bull by the horns and legalise and regulate what are now illicit drugs, most of which have been proven to be less harmful than legal products like alcohol and cigarettes.
By the way we could make a start by not using language like junkies and heroin zombies. We have seen in recent years how such derogatory language has been used to demonise the section of society the media calls 'the underclass.' It's very revealing when drug addicts are portrayed in the media more often than not they will be from that class, when in reality they come from all sections of society and all walks of life.
Dehumanising language like this is used by the ruling elites to justify their war on drugs. A war which has enriched, or provided jobs for a raft of so called respectable people. From the Bankers like those at HSBC who laundered hundreds of millions of dollars for the drug cartels, the police, the spooks who now have illicit drugs in their remit, the legal profession who defend, prosecute and sentence those caught in the prohibition trap, the jailers who incarcerate them, and the multitude of businesses which swim in the imprisonment industries wake, and finally the drug treatment business which gets larger by the day, despite having an appalling lack of success. In truth the list is endless.
On the latter, have you ever wondered why smokers are portrayed and deemed as having a mere habit, while drug addicts allegedly have mental health problems and are in need of the psychiatric wing of the medical profession, when in reality both are addicted to a powerful drug?
If anything it should be the other way around as the life expectancy for the smoker is clearly much shorter than a heroin addict, who were they to be given access to pharmaceutical product could live to the same average age as their fellow citizens. It is the lack of clean drugs which mainly kill the heroin addict not the narcotic, while for the smoker their drug of choice is pure poison.
By pointing this out I am not demanding the prohibition of cigarettes, but highlighting the sheer hypocrisy and crass stupidity of the war on drugs.
People take drugs for a host of differing reasons but mainly because they enjoy them. Thankfully few come to harm if they manage to keep out of the clutches of the law, which in itself is yet another sound reason for legalisation and regulation.
I am not an advocate of drug taking, far from it in fact, but human beings often need an outlet to smooth over the pressures of life. Some bite the altar-bar, go down the pub, or both, watch a football match; others take illegal substances. We need to show some respect, and treat people like adults and allow them to make their own choices and cease being judgmental because the man in the big house demands it.
Óglaigh na hÉireann
As to the IRA and its ridiculous, infantile and nasty war on drugs, it should have made them a laughing stock. In reality what they were doing was aping the behaviour of the very forces of reaction they claimed to oppose. It was Richard Nixon who first declared war on drugs in 1971, at a time when he was attempting to bomb the Cambodian and Vietnamese people back to the stone age. That alone should have forewarned the Irish Republican movement to steer clear. But no, they thought by joining Tricky Dickey's crusade they would be on the side of the angels. Even when Ronald Reagan opportunistically took up Nixon's baton in the 1980s, and used the war on drugs as a sideline to help fund the Contras and the other counter-revolutionary forces in an attempt to halt the rise of progressive forces in south and central America, the IRA still did not pull back.
It's impossible not to be contemptuous when senior commanders of the IRA ordered volunteers to shoot and maim working class youngsters for little more than behaving like the teenagers they were.
I can understand they may have feared drug users, or their dealers might become easy pickings when the police and security services were trawling for touts and thus threaten the security of an underground army, but the same could be said about anyone who carries out a criminal act, or come to that takes protection money from criminals. The hypocrisy displayed here is best demonstrated by the fact at the same time the IRA was waging war on drugs they ran or taxed pubs and drinking clubs and presumably also the fruit machines within them.
To claim as the IRA did that they brutalised both users and dealers to protect "their communities" is rank hypocrisy. It makes a truism of the war on drugs is a war on our own children. In many cases one cannot help feeling the IRA's war on drugs boiled down to little more than there can only be one king of the dung-heap. As Napoleon Bonaparte once pointed out: 'Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress.'
It is my opinion that if drugs were legalised and regulated, in time fewer people would take them. This would be especially true of narcotics like heroin, although I am less sure about cannabis which is widely used as an alternative to alcohol. What I am certain of, if legalised those who have developed problems due to their drug taking would search out help much earlier and hopefully some of the money currently being wasted on the war on drugs which runs into billions will be channeled into this field.
Throughout much of human history drugs which are illegal today were widely available to all without any stigma attached, and were commonly used for a host of differing maladies. Opium was used for both pleasure and to treat chronic pain and to this day it is regarded by the medical profession as the finest painkiller known to humankind. Sadly since the war on drugs was proclaimed many doctors are fearful of prescribing it in adequate doses, even to terminally ill patients, in case they are accused of malpractice.
During the 19th century an Opium derivative, Laudanum, was used to treat a variety of ailments which varied from diarrhoea to nausea. It could be brought over the counter in pharmacies as too could morphine. In 1926 the law was changed and it along with morphine/heroin had to be prescribed by a doctor.
This system worked reasonably well until the late 1960s when there was a media generated campaign to ban doctors prescribing heroin to addicts. This did not happen immediately but the law was made more restrictive in 1968 and again in the early 1970s, about the same time Nixon was declaring war on drugs. Prescribing heroin to UK addicts all but ceased, although a tiny number of doctors linked to psychiatric hospital departments were still allowed to prescribe if they linked it to a research program. Once psychiatrists got involved, also brought into play was the mad, bad, or sad, 'theory' of addiction endorsed by many GPs and so beloved by the mainstream media.
Today the treatment of drug addiction within the NHS is one of the few, if not the only disease, where the medical profession negates its responsibility and allows the Home Office to dictate the terms of the treatment their patients receive. Which for the majority basically boils down to a daily prescription for small amounts of oral methadone, a highly addictive synthetic opioid.
It is hardly surprising for problem drug users its been down hill ever since.
In recent years more sensible heads have begun to place themselves above the parapet and refuse to be intimidated or shouted down, often by those who have a vested interest in keeping illicit drugs illegal. Most recognise the war on drugs, like the war on terror, has become a costly disaster and it's only fitting within the USA, the home of prohibition, more and more people are questioning whether its time to legalise and regulate. Cannabis is now freely available in some US states, having been decriminalised after public referendums. Which in itself shows how much public opinion has changed and how out of touch today's ruling political elites have become.
It is time for a change and to those who say legalization and regulation will only make matters worse I would say this. With the current status quo in place, its difficult to see how things could get much worse. Millions of people across the world are imprisoned for drug offenses, some entombed for a lifetime. Billions if not trillions of dollars have been poured into the war on drugs yet today more people take illicit drugs than when Nixon first declared war on drugs. What we have today is not even a holding operation.
Our public institutions have been corrupted by the massive amounts of drug money floating around the system. We caught a glimpse of this when HSBC were exposed as the bank the Cali drug Cartel loves the best. Few doubt other banks are also up to their necks in money laundering drug money. After all, the trillions the cartels make is not made into haystacks now is it?
Finally with legalization and regulation the problem drug user would become a public health issue, not as now victims of the criminal justice system and a totally unregulated market.
Whats not to like?