Pubdate: Fri, 15 Aug 2014
Source: Irish Independent (Ireland)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd
Author: James Downey


THREE years ago, the UN Global Commission on Drug Policy announced 
that the world had lost the long war against illegal drugs. Its 22 
eminent members concluded that there remained only one feasible 
response: legalise the trade.

The evidence they had studied was overwhelming. The fight had 
resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives in turf wars 
and in ever-increasing power and wealth for the criminal syndicates. 
Tens of millions were incarcerated, often in prisons where dangerous 
drugs were as easily available as on the outside.

It could never have been otherwise.

All through history, human beings have consumed mind-altering 
substances. In pre-modern times, these were typically mild and caused 
little physical or mental damage.

But with the advance of science, human minds - as ingenious in bad 
inventions as in good - found means of producing lethal substances, 
infinitely more harmful, but also more attractive to those seeking 
the ultimate "high".

Governments reacted by mounting efforts to disrupt the flow of 
trafficking. They failed. Attempts at treatment and rehabilitation 
fared little better. Those who studied the question in depth produced 
proposals that ranged from permitting the use of "soft" drugs to 
blanket legalisation.Various countries and some American states have 
legalised cannabis. But governments and the public have flinched from 
the idea of legalising heroin, cocaine or crystal meth.

Why are they so determined to ignore the conclusions of expert 
researchers, culminating in the commission's dramatic announcement? 
Those who have continued the campaign for legalisation are typically 
academics, or members of the global elite, like the former UN 
Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Annan has returned to the subject more than once. He raised it at 
this year's Global Economic Forum in Davos, where he was supported by 
another former commission member, the Colombian President Juan Manuel 
Santos. They know all about drugs in Colombia.

More recently, Annan has appeared on television, looking glum. Well 
might a man look glum who once spent years struggling with all the 
ills of the planet.

And well might he look glum when the action he now favours found no 
echo from national governments or public opinion.

Soon after, one aspect of the disaster came into the Irish 
consciousness. Parts of Dublin have become unpleasant, even dangerous.

Broken, pathetic young addicts, roam the streets at night. Drugs are 
dealt openly. Our undermanned police force is helpless.

But the authorities still cannot grasp the nature or scale of the 
problem, much less its solution.Populist ideas abound. Lock them up! 
Sweep them out of the way! Lord Mayor Christy Burke believes "the 
problem can be averted". Mr Burke is a decent man, hard-working, 
non-partisan, deservedly popular. But on this point he is wrong. The 
problem cannot be averted: it must be faced. It must be faced with a 
campaign to persuade the citizens to overcome their built-in 
prejudices and accept that legalisation does not mean a surrender to 
the drug syndicates. Instead, it offers us a way of smashing them.

When legalisation comes, as it eventually must, it will come 
accompanied by control.

Drug trafficking will become a legitimate trade like any other, but 
with guarantees for quality, making the products less dangerous and 
thereby saving lives.

Governments will determine the conditions for production, 
distribution and sale. The same governments will collect large sums in taxes.

The dealers will disappear from the streets. They will have no future 
when people can buy drugs in outlets licensed to sell them.

Many people will take fright at such prospects. They will fear a 
massive increase in addiction. That is unlikely. The addiction rate 
is already terrifyingly high, and some researchers think that 
legalisation will reduce drug use, not increase it.

But when governments, including our own, pluck up their courage and 
overcome their own prejudices they must not tell their peoples that 
legalisation will cure all ills.

There will always be crime. There will always be crime syndicates.

Those who run the drug syndicates now will find other means, equally 
abominable and equally profitable, of making fortunes.

But the world will get comfort from the end of an war. And the 
streets of Dublin will be more pleasant places.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom