Recently there has been a call by major bodies of people who actually know what they are talking about to legalise drugs. The arguments for the legalisation of drugs are manifold and undeniable: the war on drugs isn’t working and never has; making criminals of drug users is a counter-productive move and wrecks lives; deaths are caused by impure, cut drugs; and decriminalisation would take the profits out of the hands of the drug gangs and put them back into the economy, where they could be properly controlled and taxed. Nonetheless, a change in the law is very unlikely.
Let’s consider why this is for a moment. Simply put, the majority of those who always refer to themselves as “right thinking” people – who are typically very conservative and somewhat blinkered – would never forgive any government who legislated in favour of anything which they considered (and I use the term here in its least appropriate form) to be opposed to the moral high-ground which they never question for one moment that they occupy unchallenged. This would make re-election for any party which acted upon this advice very difficult and thus effectively constitute political suicide.
However, there is another perspective to be considered. Cocaine dealers undoubtedly stimulate bankers (although evidently not their judgement) and, whilst heroin dealers may seem only to stimulate Glaswegians, both groups spend a great deal of money on jewellery, property and flashy cars, thus stimulating the economy. Moreover, in Afghanistan – a cultivator of a large proportion of the world’s opium poppy resource – the Taliban are growing rich on the profits of the drugs trade. They then spend an awful lot of this money on arms, usually sourced from China, and this prolongs the “war on terror” which, in turn, necessitates greater spending by western governments on even more weapons.
Now, you might think that a great deal of your tax money is being spent on funding this alleged war but, make no mistake, it’s all economic stimulation. Defence spending in the UK is currently around £36.9 billion annually. This may seem like rather a lot in these times of austerity but it’s actually substantially worse than you think since the government is not only buying arms but is also subsidising their manufacture and marketing to the tune of £900 million annually (source: Campaign Against Arms Trade estimate of 2004 – precise figures are not made available) whilst cuts are being made to the NHS, public services, infrastructure and education. Indeed, since subsidised export of arms is a major part of industry turnover (official figures show that, since 2009, Britain approved export licences worth £2.3 billion to sixteen states over a twenty-one-month period, recently arming dictatorships in Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain – countries in which we were ostensibly supporting the freedom fighters – amongst others), this means that taxpayers are actually contributing to the costs of both sides in many conflicts, including some of those in which we are directly involved. It might almost appear that, without financial support (from both legitimate and illicit sources), all war would be prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, only a handful of pensioners die every year while waiting for their £25 cold weather payments.
Some points for comparison:
• According to the UN, two hundred thousand people died from the use of illegal drugs in 2007.
• Meanwhile, cigarettes – legal and taxed despite being produced by of one of the most sinister and evil industries the world has ever seen – are responsible for three million deaths a year, according to the same report.
• The World Health Organisation estimates two and a half million deaths per annum from alcohol abuse, which is what legal and taxed drinking is called.
• The British Medical Journal, by contrast, estimates that less than four hundred thousand people die in armed conflicts each year, which makes war look like an incredibly inefficient means of killing people.
Notwithstanding any of this, drug dealers apparently deal in death, which is why drugs will remain illegal, whilst actually dealing in death remains a hugely lucrative business model supported by government.
Still, at least some people are making a great deal of money from war. Granted it’s mostly arms dealers, but they employ people and it’s largely taxable (after deductions). Certainly it’s stimulating some people economically. Rather fortuitously, the Taliban are now apparently moving into people trafficking, which will at least provide a cheap source of labour. Legalisation of drugs thus actually seems fiscally foolhardy, from a purely economic perspective.
Ultimately, it seems, nobody is interested in preventing human misery. It’s all about the money – everything else is just pretence.