Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jun 2014
Source: Times, The (Malta)
Copyright: 2014 Allied Newspapers Limited
Author: Robert Callus
Note: Robert Callus is spokesperson for Social Policy for 
Alternattiva Demokratika


Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna has challenged the politicians to 
deny that the decriminalisation of drugs would help the drug barons.

Alternattiva Demokratika, which has consistently opposed the 
criminalisation of people who are in possession of drugs for their 
own use, would like to take up the challenge.

Portugal decriminalised the personal use of all drugs in 2001 and 
there has been no apocalypse. Far from that.

There was no significant increase in the use of drugs since 2001 
(actually the increase was less than that of the EU average), drug 
related crime went down and so did related diseases.

It was such a resounding success that, with the exception of the far 
right, Portuguese politicians across the board agree that Portugal is 
now better off.

They don't want to turn the clock back.How could this be? Simple. The 
widely criticised war on drugs is based on two myths and it's about 
time that these are addressed.

Myth 1: making drugs illegal stops the flow.

When former US President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs 50 
years ago it was thought that in around five years all illegal drugs 
will be abolished in the US.

He couldn't have been more wrong. Drug use in the US and worldwide is 
actually tenfold higher compared with 50 years ago.

The harsher the laws, the higher the stakes. Drug barons and 
traffickers make money from taking a risk and the higher that risk 
is, the higher the profits.

If someone is deterred from importing and trafficking drugs because 
of harsh penalties, there is always someone else willing to take his place.

This perhaps explains why the country with the biggest number of drug 
addicts in the world, Iran, is also one that has the harshest laws on 
both drug use and trafficking, including the death penalty.

The drugs are not coming. They're here and they will remain here no 
matter how harsh the laws are. I'm sure this isn't what most people 
want to hear, but let's not kid ourselves.

Myth 2: criminalising the users will deter them from taking drugs. 
Except that it doesn't.

Research such as that carried out by the Global Commission for Drug 
Policy shows clearly that - while accurate information about drugs 
and their effects, coupled with investing in our children's 
self-esteem, significantly reduces drug use and addiction - the 
threat of criminal prosecution does not.

Logically this makes sense. If I buy a stash of heroin and use it, 
it's extremely unlikely that I'm going to get caught and prosecuted.

On the other hand, I know that it's very likely I will carry on to 
become a full-blown junkie and my life will become hell. What is more 
likely to deter me, the knowledge of a hellish future or the 
possibility that I might get caught?

Auxiliary Bishop Charles Scicluna is also mistaken when he says that 
decriminalising drugs for personal use sends people "the message that 
taking a small amount of drugs was OK".

Legal and OK are not the same thing. Is our society telling young 
people that smoking tobacco, drinking large amounts of alcohol and 
staying for long hours in the sun without protection is OK, just 
because these aren't illegal?

Decriminalising the personal use of drugs will in no way help drug 
barons. It will only stop criminalising the same people the war on 
drugs calls "victims".

And let's be frank. You don't turn people into criminals for their 
own good. You don't punish the victims. It's not only illogical but 
also highly immoral.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom