Pubdate: Thu, 08 Jun 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: D. K. Henderson
Referenced: and


Sir, - Thank goodness for the rock of commonsense which is Fintan O'Toole,
and his article on our attitude to heroin and other drugs. For it is time,
surely, for us to "grasp the nettle", radically modify our thinking, and
realise that the drugs problem is not going to go away of its own accord.

I totally agree with P. Bowler (June 5th) when he says that anti-drugs
legislation has proved itself to be, in the main, ineffective, possibly even
encouraging the use of drugs by glamorising the situation; and drugs are as
procurable today as if they were available from every corner shop.

So why not make it so? Tobacconists' shops and corner hostelries - the
modern-day opium dens - already deal out death inducing drugs, in the form
of tobacco and alcohol, the former of which was the subject of a very
comprehensive report in The Irish Times only this week, in connection with
World No Tobacco Day.

Why not widen their repertoire, by legalising heroin, cannabis, ecstasy,
etc., and, by so doing, introduce a Government quality standard to ensure
that tragic deaths - such as what is happening at the moment to hapless
heroin users by their injecting of tainted product - be avoided?

The cost of such a scheme could be met by the introduction of a special
excise duty on drugs, just as is the norm today on packets of cigarettes and
bottles of booze.

A knock-on effect of this scheme would be to lower the price of drugs and to
increase availability, so addicts would literally be getting more for less.

Crime would be lowered - remember the bus shelter ads of last year which
stated "Your HiFi - His Next High"? - because there would be less need to
resort to crime to acquire the much lower funds to partake of a substance
which would now, suddenly, be socially acceptable, and available at a much
more affordable cost.

Needless to remark, a minimum age-limit for purchasers of these products
would have to be enforced, as already applies so successfully to the sale of
cigarettes and cider to minors.

It is time for the Government to act decisively, and level the playing
field. As the old adage has it, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em", and it is
anomalous to have, on the one hand, harmful drugs which are made all the
more injurious by the absence of Government approval and quality control,
yet, on the other hand, to have equally lethal drugs available, legally, at
an over-the-counter price which includes a very handsome consideration for
the Exchequer. - Yours, etc.,

D.K. Henderson, Castle Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin 3.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk