Pubdate: Mon, 19 Nov 2007
Source: Star, The (South Africa)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers 2007
Author: Richard Gruning


One must marvel at the unlimited capacity of the human race not to 
learn from the past.

Take wars, for example. No war has in the long run achieved anything. 
Millions of people have died unnecessarily, mostly at the a whim of 
the regent, president, paramount chief, prime minister or reichs-chancellor.

Another case in point relates to what one could call "synthetic" 
political systems, such as communism.

While attractive in theory, it gets mangled by imperfect humans such 
as Lenin, Stalin or Chaiman Mao and their personal agendas. Mostly 
such systems have been discredited.

Even the Chinese are converting to capitalism at a rapid pace.

But I would like to discuss the way the world has not learned to deal 
with the drug problem.

Drugs exploded onto the social scene in a big way during the hippy 
era, first in a fairly mild form but very soon spawned new versions 
of ever-increasing strength and variety. The governments of the 
"civilised" world considered recreational drugs a danger to society. 
One is reminded of a similar response, by the US, to the perceived 
dangers of alcohol. Prohibition, it was called.

Alcohol was "verboten". What was the outcome of this prohibition? 
Well, like all activities or things that certain groups of people 
find attractive and thereby provide a market, it simply went underground.

This had several consequences. It attracted organised crime, as the 
profits were very good. It made a fairly harmless activity of having 
an occasional drink or two a criminal offence, and the government 
wasted ernormous manpower and resources in trying to enforce a law 
that was not enforceable.

We all know what happened: it could not be contained and eventually 
prohibition was lifted.

The response to drugs has been similar, except that it involves the 
concerted effort of practically all governments on this planet. This 
has been going on ever since the hippy era and the effort has 
increased as the supply has increased.

The success rate of all this effort is questionable.

We all know that anyone determined to obtain drugs will do so with 
relative ease.

So what is the point of all this seemingly wasted effort?

We all know that it is part of human nature to want the things that 
are forbidden. This is what makes a man with a perfectly good wife 
visit prostitutes.

Just as alcohol was de-criminalised after prohibition, the 
authorities should do the same with drugs.

Just as alcohol is sold (in this country) by specially licensed 
outlets, so should drug dealers be licensed and become taxpayers. 
This type of response would have several beneficial results: the 
underground trade would die, the price of drugs would collapse, it 
would not be so "cool" anymore to use drugs as they would not be a 
forbidden fruit.

The state would save all the cost related to trying to suppress the 
drug trade and would in addition take in a considerable amount in taxes.

The underlying logic of this approach is simple: treat people like 
adults. By all means highlight the dangers, but in the final 
analysis, every human being has the right to take responsibility for 
his own life and, if he wishes, ruin himself, be it through drink, 
drugs or excessive smoking.

It is about time the state stopped being a nanny to every citizen. We 
all know that most people react positively if they are given 
responsibility for their own lives.

Why should that be different with regard to drugs. It must be worth a 
try. The current method has failed and will continue to fail. We must 
stop thumping the head against the wall. That is exactly what the 
drug lords want us to do.

Richard Gruning
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