War on drugs lost

| 26/06/2009

Today (26 June) is World Drug Day and the UN has released a report finally acknowledging that the global effort to address the many and complex issues of drug misuse have tipped far too much toward law enforcement and away from treatment and prevention.

At the risk of ‘them a cumin for me with the pitchforks at dawn’ I am going to stick my head on the block and say it is time that we began discussing our own overly heavy emphasis on the law enforcement part of tackling drug misuse here and our serious lack of commitment to treatment and sensible prevention. The war on drugs has failed everywhere, prohibition has not worked, and while the rather ’radical’ idea (to some) of legalising recreational drug use may seem beyond the pale, the evidence of success and the arguments for this as a solution are mounting.

The concept of legalising drug use as a way of tackling the problem is not new. The arguments have been around for a long time and those arguments are not merely about personal freedom but are based on sound economic and social principles. The arguments are multifaceted but they are logical; sadly, when it comes to drugs, people carry very biased and emotional opinions which prevent them from seeing the logic of the arguments.

Consequently, over the last four decades those putting forward the legalisation argument have been seen as depraved, liberal or extremists because drugs are bad, right? Yes, they are, but so are trans-fats, sugar, caffeine, whiskey, tobacco, rum, heavy cake, tequila, chicken dippers, vodka and, well, a lot of other stuff that people like. What people find particularly upsetting about drugs — and essentially alcohol which is the only thing we allow that does this — is the mind changing bit.

Yetman himself has sought to imbibe mind warping substance since he dropped out of the trees, so denying the human desire to get a little tipsy is itself rather strange. Ironically, the one drug we allow is one of the worst. (I suspect we allow it because of its biblical connections. If Jesus had turned the water into opium, who knows…).

For many people with a tendency to misuse drugs, alcohol is very bad as it makes many people violent compared to other drugs such as extacy or ganja, which by and large do not.  Yet here in Cayman the use of both those drugs will see you serving at Her Majesty’s pleasure just for touching them, whereas you can drink till you fall over, bash your wife and crash your car and, unless you do something seriously bad (bashing your wife not serious enough apparently), you are unlikely to end up in jail.

The issue with drug use is that, for some, using drugs is a part of their lives and, aside from the obvious personal health risks, their lives are none the worse for it, while for others, their lives are ruined by the use and drive to get their fix at all costs. If we were to be honest with ourselves, we know that we probably have a considerable number of people going to plush offices on Monday mornings working for leading firms here that probably spent the weekend high on illicit substance, but because they were discreet, paid good money that they had not stolen and didn’t beat anyone up they turn up for work on Monday without having placed any undue burden on the local society.

On the other hand, during the same weekend a teenager from a broken home who has emotional difficulties already, no job or hope may well have had to break into a house, fight a few people and generally cause a nuisance before he scored enough crack for his pipe.

Drugs are entrenched in our community and so is the crime that goes with it. If we really want to address the problem we must change our view of drugs as evil and look at them as another commodity that needs to be controlled, like alcohol or tobacco. But above all society needs to take these dangerous substances from the hands of the criminals and put them in the hands of the community and make them legal to buy, sell and use. Right now when the two major manufactures of cola go up against each other to sell their goods, the sales representatives don’t shoot each other for the market share. They compete in a legal arena using pop stars and gimmicks. However, if the drink was prohibited they probably would start shooting because making cola illegal would not stop some people wanting it.

This was demonstrated by the prohibition of alcohol in America. The US government effectively created organised crime as a result of that prohibition. Once it was legalised again the hoods and gangs moved to drugs and have stayed there ever since, and it is now the second largest trade in the world after the arms trade.  

Legalisation gives governments control instead of the ruthless criminals; it enables governments to tax the goods and ultimately diverts funds. Drugs sold on a legal market would be a fraction of the cost and reduce the amount of acquisitive crime committed to buy them. But more importantly, and the biggest and most positive argument for legalisation is that the billions of dollars spent worldwide trying to fight the illegal trade could be spent on treatment and prevention.

Currently of those billions of dollars spent on law enforcement to fight the war on drugs a tiny fraction is spent on treatment and prevention. Here in Cayman if we compare the annual Drug Court budget with the Drug Task Force …….

Oh, yes! The Drug Court doesn’t have a budget. Well, there we are! 

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Comments (4)

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  1. pastor bucket says:

    Well done Wendy, great article

    And to the poster who suggested we grow our own


    The war on drugs, like terror ..is a scam, a sham & just does not work, simple

    Legalizing/decriminalizing ganja will not be a bad thing for society – it has been part of many successful cultures for thousands of years

    why should otherwise law-abiding citizens, decent people, be forced to associated with dodgy criminals & endure the fear & worry of losing their permit/life here because of draconian, hypocrytical fear? especially if it helps them (like me) with medical conditions & they dont drink nasty alcphol, which makes people go crazy & is present in most cases of violence…people ont fight on weed!

    It is the cigarette & alcohol industries that have created the mythical monster of ‘reefer madness’, not ganja

    throw away most of your music & books if you hate ganja, for most of it has been created via this




    and for the bible bashers:

    God has given us life. He has created certain herbs and plants for eating and healing.

    "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you allthings." (Genesis 9:3).


  2. Anonymous says:

    There are middle-ground positions as well to consider. 

    While it is in no one’s interest to promote the use of ganja, it is possible to decriminalize its personal use and direct the user to substance abuse treatment as needed instead of prison, without having to fully legalize it.  Ganja dulls the brain and there is at least some evidence that its use can lead to brain damage in some users (but not all apparently), and there are a multitude of health concerns about it, so the goal has to be to reduce or eliminate its use by people. 

    With that goal in mind, treating the (ab)use of ganja more of a medical problem seems to be preferable.  In my view, substance abuse is a medical/psychological problem needing treatment instead of ignoring the underlying issue and sending the user to a criminal detention facility and giving them a criminal record.

    Having said that, there is a huge difference between the user and the drug dealer.  The dealer preys on the weaknesses of the user to make money. He is like a vampire, sucking the blood out of our people and society, without regard for the damage he causes.  The users are our friends and neighbours who may or may not have a substance abuse problem that we, as good neighbours, we need to help them with.  The dealers are the enemies of our society who seek to prey on our weakest members for profit, meaning our young people, our neighbours who are having a rough go of it and turn to substance abuse for mental relief, or our neighbours who drift into this lifestyle for whatever reason only to find that their genetic makeup makes them predisposed to substance abuse and they find themselves trapped in addiction. 

    We have to take the monopoly of ganja away from the dealers, while making every effort to suppress its use by our citizens.  One solution is to let people grow and smoke their own ganja in very limited quantities, preferably by making available seeds that are not "genetically engineered" (or bred) for stupidly high potency.  Grow it and smoke it – fine; import or sell it (in bulk) for profit – go to jail. 

    As an aside, this goes to ganja, not harder drugs.  Crack dealers just need to be stood against the wall and shot. 

  3. Anonymous says:

     "During 2006 the total Federal, State, and local adult correctional population — incarcerated or in the community – grew by 159,500 persons to over 7.2 million. The growth of 2.3% during the year was about the same as the average annual increase in the correctional population since 1995 (2.5%). About 3.2% of the U.S. adult population, or 1 in every 31 adults, were incarcerated or on probation or parole at yearend 2006."


    Glaze, Lauren E., and Bonczar, Thomas P., Bureau of Justice Statistics, Probation and Parole in the United States 2006 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, December 2007), NCJ220218, p. 2.


    Decriminalizing Pot Will Reduce Prison Population, Have No Adverse Impact On Public Safety, Study Says 


    November 21, 2007 – Washington, DC, USA

    Washington, DC:  Decriminalizing so-called ‘victimless’ crimes, particularly those related to drug use, can reduce the US prison population without adversely affecting public safety, according to the findings of a study published this week by the JFA Institute, a Washington, DC criminal-justice think tank.


    “According to the US Department of Justice, approximately 30-40 percent of all current prison admissions involve crimes that have no direct or obvious victim other than the perpetrator,” the report finds. “The drug category constitutes the largest offense category, with 31 percent of all prison admissions resulting from such crimes.”



  4. Anonymous says:

    "Legalisation gives governments control instead of the ruthless criminals."

    Bummer Dude. No way Mac’s gonna grow the good stuff man. …

    Hu hu hu hee hee hee hee.

    What was I saying?  Oh wow man, I’m sure I was saying something man. 

    It was far out too.  Wow …