Mark Owen writes

Drugs: Let's end the war and secure the peace

The former President of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, has done us a great service by opening up for discussion the vexed question of illicit drugs. In a syndicated article which appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald and other papers [Treat drug users not as criminals but as patients who need care], the President says the war on drugs is a lost war and the emphasis should now shift from punishment to policies that address the issues in terms of health, human rights and commonsense.

In my book, The Tyranny of GOD (1990), I proposed a radical view of drugs. I have long believed there was a lopsided approach to what are termed 'recreational' [sic] drugs in contrast to our treatment of the use of alcohol. We prohibit the former but the latter flows freely through our society.  Most of us are aware of the evils that arose from the prohibition of alcohol in the USA but why are we not more attuned to the evils from the prohibition on - and criminalizing possession of - drugs?

Let me add that I have NEVER ever used any illicit drugs nor for that matter have I ever drunk alcoholic beverages. I can't for the life of me see why anyone ever takes to drugs in the first place; I've had a fair share of stress, strain and crises in my life and have managed to survive with neither drugs nor alcohol to prop me up.  I find it faintly amusing the way so many people in TV programs reach for the gin (or rum or whiskey? - I know nothing about drinks) at some moment of crisis.

Now while I am alarmed at the widespread culture of binge drinking that seems to be infesting our society of late I would never advocate complete prohibition.  Leave that to the Islamics! But if alcohol, the drug of adults (and increasingly and alarmingly of youth) - is freely available why do we arrest and lock up those (mostly younger members of society) who 'do' drugs?

I'm not advocating a policy of tolerating drug abuse. No sane person does but there is certainly a need to re-examine our attitudes to such issues. A correspondent to The Sydney Morning Herald (Kirk Muse) has drawn attention to a Swiss program involving the radical notion of making heroin available to addicts cheaply. This has, he claims, seen a dramatic reduction in the use of heroin and, most importantly, a drop in the overall crime rate.  i'm not suggesting such a course of action but it just one of many possible approaches to the problem. At least all options should be open to frank discussion.

Alas, conservative politicians (and these include not only Liberals and Nationals but some Labor people) cannot see past their own noses on many such issues. No wonder I am increasingly leaning towards the Greens and the Sex Party. Increasingly they embody the true progressive spirit that appeals to me (yes, even although I am aged 78!). Many of the old policies (e.g. the prohibition on gay marriage) are just that - old, and very tired.  They should be retired.

From Tracts For Our Times - Mark Owen, 2008 -

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