by Claire Goodman
It’s a topic that the Government is reluctant to bring up, despite its rearing its ugly head in the free press for decades: the failed War on Drugs. The recent decriminalization of marijuana and an increasingly informed public indicate a shift in popular opinion — that is “if” popular opinion truly ever condemned the widespread usage of soft drugs. Conservatives and liberals even have the statistical evidence to actually agree on this one, just as they do regarding the economy and job growth — whether or not they will is another matter, but the current Administration is missing out on an opportunity to tackle an issue which will merit them a small surge in popularity, direly needed after the recent GOP shutdown.
The Real Issue
This isn’t just about the statistical evidence supporting how the criminalization and attempted stigmatization of substances such as marijuana/cannabis have failed, or how the States incarcerate the highest population in the world for what is, in reality, minor drug usage. It’s about the call to battle for a different kind of demon — one which has been wreaking havoc on lives across the country and around the globe for decades.
According to a recent report published by The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy, the economic infrastructure of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin is changing — now more than ever, they are accessible and feasible to the greater public. With price cuts of approximately 60% to 90% worldwide and the purity of some of these substances increasing as much as 161%, for both consumer and supplier, the drug trade is a success story — delivering quality goods for a better rate, signifying a larger consumer base and ease of distribution, thus more profit.
As for its opponents, the gimmick is clearly failing, and everybody knows it. It’s not just about mis-guided policies which place marijuana in the Schedule I Substance category — the same melting pot as LSD and heroin. It’s about how younger generations perceive drugs as a whole; the argument is that when pot is technically akin to heroin under the mantra “all drugs are BAD,” then a naïve user will equate the relatively harmless effects of marijuana (dependent on various factors such as strength, dosage, frequency, and psychological makeup) with what they might expect from taking a harder substance, failing to distinguish the potentially fatal line between the two.
This is Legal?
While European countries with progressive approaches to marijuana experience lower drug-related crime rates and enjoy an overall harmonious societal balance, others continue to tread an uphill battle in their attempts to take the edge off the supposed scourge of illegal substances. What particularly defies the “logic” of mis-classifying marijuana is the lack of focus on extremely dangerous substances known as “legal highs” in the UK. Claiming to simulate the effects of both hard and soft drugs, granting the illusion that the user can enjoy the same experience without the risks involved, these products are deadly — composed of ingredients which even lab technicians are at a loss to identify.
Sold in “head shops”, these are legal because they are sold with the label “not for human consumption.” Once a law is passed prohibiting a specific type or brand, the manufacturer merely changes one or more ingredients and puts it back out on the market, making it virtually impossible to combat. With names like “Fairy Dust”, “Groove Love”, “Smileys”, and “Pink Champagne,” the younger demographic perceives these as mystical and harmless, and little information is available to instruct users on how to take them without resulting in an overdose. Last year alone, 52 lives were claimed by such misuse. It’s simply a matter of time before the US suffers a similar crisis.
Getting it Right
Rather than dealing with defeatist terminology like “the War on Drugs is failing” (indicative of disillusionment and even apathy regarding Government policies) what needs to be said is that “the Drug War is winning,” pressing for a more urgent, pro-active counter attack. Economically, politically, culturally and socially, hard drugs are no longer for the elite, the ravers, the experimental, the depressed, or the psychedelically-inclined. They are part of a core which threatens the fabric of a stable society, tearing individual lives apart and usurping the family sphere.
Getting to the source and cutting off distribution lines and demobilizing dealers is a tough but effective method, as well as increasing access to education on the home front in regards to locally-produced substances with devastating consequences like crystal meth. It’s about putting out the support which is so essential for helping families to get their lives back on track one step at a time, in a way that is accessible and empowering by offering comprehensive rehabilitation programs on a nationwide scale and giving hope to drug users, who need to know that they have a chance for a future — one without a criminal record (in the appropriate context) to hold their prospects back. With several organizations already setting these steps into motion, once backed with the full support of the Government the power shift between hard drugs and the general public will change dramatically.
Fewer incarcerations, fewer mis-managed resources, more help for drug addicts, and a better educated generation will result in a positive economical and social change, and it doesn’t have to incorporate dismissing the risks of soft drugs entirely, but through decriminalization they can be sourced ethically and become monitored for safety while hard drugs are examined and treated on a more intensive basis. It’s time to set things right, channel our resources effectively, and start picking our battles with more discretion – for the sake of this generation and the next.