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How Portugal treats drug addicts

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Mark Easton | 18:33 UK time, Wednesday, 1 July 2009

At "The End of the World" I met Maria. Beneath a tent of blankets on a steep bank, surrounded by discarded syringes and blood, she unfolded her foil and proceeded to smoke heroin.

Lisbon, The End Of The World

The district in which she lives near Lisbon gained its name and reputation from illegal drugs. But as I sat on a rock and watched her daily ritual, I was aware that Maria is part of an extraordinary and controversial experiment. In almost every other place in the world, what she is doing is crime. Here, though, she can be confident her drug use will not end in prison.

Exactly eight years ago today, on July 1st 2001, Portugal decreed that the purchase, possession and use of any previously-illegal substance would no longer be considered a criminal offence. So, instead of police arresting users, at The End of the World, health and social workers now dispense the paraphernalia of heroin use.

Paula Vale de Andrade told me how her "street teams" have been able dramatically to cut HIV infections and drug deaths since the new law.

"When drug use was a crime, people were afraid to engage with the teams. But since decriminalisation, they know the police won't be involved and they come forward. It has been a great improvement."

Many had predicted disaster - that plane loads of "drug tourists" would descend on Portugal knowing that they couldn't end up in court. But what one politician called "the promise of sun, beaches and any drug you like" simply hasn't materialised.

In fact, overall drug consumption appears stable or down - government statistics suggest a 10% fall.

Among teenagers, the statistics suggest that the use of every illicit substance has fallen. The table below is from the Cato Institute's white paper Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies.

portugal chart

I know there is some doubt over the methodology used in compiling some of these data, but what strikes me is that there is absolutely no evidence that drug use has risen.

Drug trafficking remains a serious criminal offence: Portugal hasn't legalised drugs. But people caught with a quantity of drugs deemed for their personal use (roughly ten days' supply) are sent to a local dissuasion commission panel.

The one I attended consisted of a social worker and a legal expert and they were looking at the case of Joanna, a heroin addict. The commission has the power to issue fines - while no longer a criminal offence, possession is still prohibited in Portugal - but the user here is addicted to drugs, so a fine is ruled inapplicable. The commission encourages her to go into treatment by offering to suspend other sanctions.

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Some remain unconvinced that the new philosophy is working. The police officers I met on patrol in one of Lisbon's more "notorious" districts question the statistics, particularly the suggestion that decriminalising drugs has caused drug use to fall. There is clearly frustration that people who were villains yesterday are victims today. But there's also annoyance that in roughly a third of cases, drug users fail to attend the commission hearings when police send them there.

In the eight years since Portugal shocked the world with its drug policy, the idea that users need care not punishment has swept across Europe. In 10 EU countries, possession of some, if not all illegal substances is not generally pursued as a crime. In Britain, while officially the use of banned drugs is a criminal offence, Ministry of Justice figures (cited in UK Focal Point report [908Kb PDF]) show that 80% of people dealt with for possession are given a warning or a caution. Less than 1% - around 1,000 people a year - go to jail.

Number of offenders receiving each disposal for drug possession offences by individual drug in England and Wales, 2006

Portugal's government is proud of its drugs policy. The prime minister stresses his personal role in its introduction, claiming the results are conclusive and the philosophy is popular.

Some question aspects of the system, but what Portugal's controversial experiment has demonstrated is that, if you take the crime out of drug use, the sky doesn't fall in.

PS: Interested readers might also look at some of the briefing papers issued by The Beckley Foundation, including The Effects of Decriminalization of Drug Use in Portugal [529Kb PDF].

Comments

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  • 1. At 8:07pm on 01 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    Thank you Mark.

    It's so rare to see an unbiased look at illegal drug use....What a surprise more proof that drug use does go down.

    Still our government will just ignore this along with all the rest of the reports that say the same thing. That most people are able to take drugs and live a normal life the same as drinking.

    The USA has multiple states that have legalised cannabis use either medically or generally use and one of them only a week or so ago made it legal to grow hemp for industrial uses, textile and bio-fuel to name a couple.

    Both the labour & conservatives are shouting at each other about who will have to cut the most in spending. Here they have the excellent opportunity to not only cut back on the billions that are wasted in the "War on Drugs" (but alcohol, tobacco & caffeine are fine), but to also make vast amounts in tax revenues from taxing the drugs as well as stopping the cash going to fund criminals, allowing cultivation for industrial uses, etc, etc. Why convert food to bio-fuel when hemp which grows naturally like a weed in UK can be used instead.

    With both of them also ignoring that vast amount of police time, money, officers and equipment that will be freed up to concentrate on serious crime instead of is someone peacefully smoking a spliff and needs arresting

    Really makes you wonder where the government is getting the support(cash) to keep ignoring the vast financial benefits of removing this prohibition. Is it the pressure from the owners of the prisons less easy criminals - less profit, pressure from drinks manufactures worried about profit loss, the drug gangs themselves lobbying to keep it illegal as they are the ones who really win while it's illegal ?

    How many British MPs, American presidents etc have admitted that they have all taken drugs in the past? but it's ok for them and what about the millions who already take drugs and are living a normal life and not causing any harm to anyone?

    How many more years will we have to put up with the blind ignorance of what happened during prohibition, criminals making vast amounts of money from alcohol, government spending vast amounts to try to police it, people suffering from badly produced down to almost poisonous drinks due to no controls. An entire cross section of society from the richest to the poorest criminalised for a drink.

    Compared to now after prohibition. No criminals on street corners offering a dodgy 6-pack, Government and business making vast profits and taxes from the sale of alcohol. The only people criminalised due to drink are those who abuse instead of using drink. All the drinks are tested and produced to a safe standard.

    Humans as a race have been taking drugs for excess of 5,000 years and it's not going to stop. Queen Victoria used and recommended cannabis for menstrual pains and she was as far removed from the "drugged out wastrel" which is commonly associated with any form of drug use these days as it is possible to get.

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  • 2. At 9:27pm on 01 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    Jaknet, that's possibly the most intelligent & well thought out post I've ever read on any website. I agree with you entirely.

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  • 3. At 10:08pm on 01 Jul 2009, mickety2001 wrote:

    Have to agree with Jaknet......there are surely unknown forces at work pressuring governments into continuing this hopeless 'war on drugs'. Are there any other policies that have been proved to have failed so completely and utterly and yet are continued decade after decade almost without question? Billions upon billions of dollars are spent almost with a religious fervour in the belief that the final salvation of a drug free society lies just around the corner.

    'Spend more cash, it'll work this time, spend more cash, it'll work this time' seems to be the mantra of the prohibitionists and I have to say that it doesn't fill me with confidence. May I suggest that they use a little bit of lateral thinking on this one?.........come to think of it any thinking at all would be good.






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  • 4. At 10:18pm on 01 Jul 2009, WELLHELLO111 wrote:

    "but alcohol, tobacco & caffeine are fine),"

    Have you not been paying attention to the Government's war on Alcohol and Tobacco?

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  • 5. At 10:38pm on 01 Jul 2009, AlKarrub wrote:

    I am portuguese!
    I saw these article about the policy on drugs in Portugal.
    As matter of fact Portugal do not "decreed that the purchase, possession and use of any previously illegal substance would no longer be considered a criminal offence..."! That regulation (approved in 2001) is only applied
    on light drugs (marijuana and other´s).
    The

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  • 6. At 11:01pm on 01 Jul 2009, AlKarrub wrote:

    (continuing previous comment send accidently and prematurely )

    idea created can be that Portugal became a paradise for everyone who want´s to consume drugs with no criminal concerns. But the purchase, possession and consumption of any drug (except light drugs) is still a criminal action .

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  • 7. At 00:02am on 02 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    mickety2001 #3.

    "..there are surely unknown forces at work pressuring governments into continuing this hopeless 'war on drugs'."

    yes, it would be very interesting to read who the lobbyists behind the scenes are. perhaps Mark Easton could provide some insights in a future post?

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  • 8. At 03:52am on 02 Jul 2009, hawk_is_howling wrote:

    I would love to read a report on how big business influences government in this regard.

    Tobacco and alcohol companies obviously have their influece, if only because of the amount of tax the government receives from their sales, but do they hold any greater sway than that? Obviously the decriminalisation of drugs is a major threat to them, how much revenue would they lose if cannabis - which has already been admitted by the government as being safer than either - became decriminalised fully?

    Perhaps the lobby group with the most influece is the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), as pharmaceuticals are the UK's biggest export earner after North Sea oil, they enjoy avery cosy relationship with the government. Do they see cannabis as a threat to their profits, with it's huge number of medicinal uses and the ability to easily be cultivated at home?

    And what about the police? With our human rights eroded more and more people are sniffed in public places by dogs, and stopped and searched on the street. It is a well known fact that this is used as an easy way for police to get their stats up, searching suspected "stoners" so they can be cautioned on the spot and sent on their way, with a fine and another boxed ticked for plod. Are they really so much against having to do real work that they would oppose decriminalisation regardless of the facts?

    The question of decriminalisation, and creating a sensible drug policy is not as simple as some might think. Does the government actually care about listening to the facts, reducing drug use, reducing deaths, reducing harms and taking money away from the drug gangs that thrive in this country, or are they more interested in keeping the various lobby groups happy?

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  • 9. At 09:00am on 02 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    Your coverage of this was a bit predictable. Three points....

    1) It would have been interesting to see comments from the people in Portugal who don't agree with this. When the police decriminalised drugs in south London the BBC told us everything was great - later on we found out SOME locals were up in arms about it. I find the idea that everything in Portugal is fine and everyone is happy difficult to believe.

    2) In reality how is this different to here? Users get sent to a commission who try to treat but can also fine. Dealers may be arrested and may go to jail. Isn't that the same mixed message policy we have here? Only difference I can see is calling it a commission not a magistrate court, most first offences don't even get to a court in the UK.

    3) Two 'innovations' seem to be getting mixed up here - mixed message decriminalisation and treatment/maintenance programmes. Given that the decriminalisation isn't actually that radical, isn't it more likely that any improvements in the situation are due to all the money being spent on treatment/maintenance programmes?

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  • 10. At 09:07am on 02 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    8. At 03:52am on 02 Jul 2009, hawk_is_howling wrote:
    I would love to read a report on how big business influences government in this regard.

    Tobacco and alcohol companies obviously have their influece, if only because of the amount of tax the government receives from their sales, but do they hold any greater sway than that? Obviously the decriminalisation of drugs is a major threat to them, how much revenue would they lose if cannabis - which has already been admitted by the government as being safer than either - became decriminalised fully?
    =============================

    Surely tobacco companies would be the biggest beneficiaries if cannabis was fully legalised - wouldn't their global agriculture/processing/shipping/marketing networks put them at the forefront in selling a new legal product range???

    Just in time to make up for falling sales of their previous product range.

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  • 11. At 09:40am on 02 Jul 2009, forgottenukcitizen wrote:

    3. mickety2001 wrote:
    Have to agree with Jaknet......there are surely unknown forces at work pressuring governments into continuing this hopeless 'war on drugs'.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The forces you speak of are the affiliation with the UN & the list of illegal narcotics that we, the UK, signed up to years ago.
    Im afraid its not as easy as you may think to go it alone.
    A few years ago, Jamaica attempted to fully legalise Marijuana use (lets face it, you might as well in Jamaica), & the USA threatened to remove aid payments etc if they did.

    Jaknet As far as im aware, there are no states in the USA that have fully decriminalised Marijuana use.
    As you point out, some have legalised for medical use & experimental hemp production purposes, but this does not constitute full legalisation, & therefore it is acceptable under the UN mandate, which is rather flimsy to say the least.

    Theres also the matter of vested interests to consider.
    The drinks industry, tobacco industry, Narcotics divisions & even the armed forces would see a reduction in work if illegal drugs where made legal.
    The biggest loosers would be the criminals, & these people have no interest in legislation either.

    Ive written about the effects of the 1920s USA prohibition on alcohol in previous threads, but to cut a long story short the following resulted.

    1. Alcohol consumption increased.
    2. All revenue went to organised crime instead of the US Government.
    3. Law enforcement costs rocketed to make good the legislation.
    4. Corruption, murder & racketeering flourished.
    5. Organized criminal gangs used their, now established, networks to start dealing in Narcotics as well.

    I finish by asking the question, who are the UK Government really working for & whose interests are they looking after by continuing to follow such failed legislation & philosophy.





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  • 12. At 09:54am on 02 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    yet more PROOF prohibition doesn't work. Yet we in the UK have to pay the 10's of billions it costs the Gov to fight drug crime, and our children still have access to any drug they want. When will people listen, when will people accept THEIR moral righteousness is incriminating people and killing people. PROHIBITION ISN'T WORKING.

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  • 13. At 10:19am on 02 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    Mark,

    In my opinion this time your article does not conform to your usual standards. I appreciate your efforts to keep the discussion about legalisation of drugs in the public domain, however the topic should be treated fairly. Your post although written with good intentions actually can lead to some very serious misconceptions.
    Compare for example the post by Jacknet, who suggest that the Government can 'earn cash' from selling drugs to drug addicts- where exactly in your post is mention that? Are we to believe that indeed the Portugese Government has fallen so low as to (in order to earn cash) sells drugs to drug-addicts, who sleep 'Beneath a tent of blankets on a steep bank, surrounded by discarded syringes and blood'? What the Portugese government has done is to minimise the risk of HIV transmission and drug-related deaths for iv drug addicts, and coupled it with a half-hearted effort to 'turn them around'- users are 'sent to a local dissuasion commission panel' which 'roughly a third of cases' fail to attend. The result- people are no longer contracting HIV or dying from poor quality drugs but are still left on the street with the blessing of the government.

    I am not suggesting that this is not an improvement, but we need to be very clear as to what we are giving as an example for the cause of legalising drugs. The example of Portugal which does not prosecute drug users is taken as evidence that Britain should completely legalise all drugs, start manifacturing and selling them to users in order to make money. This apart from being morally bankrupt is also something that has no chance of ever happening in Britain. A sort of system where hardcore drug addicts have access to legal supply to drugs is one thing and it should eb carefully considered, however actually selling them drugs for profit is quite another. A legalisation as enviseged by alot of people, whre hardcore drugs are sold in shops for everybody to use while not offering them any real help to get rid of the habit is something I cannot quite agree to.

    I am even more unhappy with your choice of examples in your topic- posting a single slide (#14) of a presentation which shows a drop in drug use to support your argument is hardly convincing. This slide only refers to use of drugs in teenagers (school environment?). How about the use in adults, the use in people who have previously used injectable drugs- where are the slides for that? And are we to disregard the fact that with the overall drop in use of most drugs, the use of GHB, methadone and kethamine has actually risen (I am refering to the slide which does not show what the levels in 2001 were for those drugs- may be there was no data?)? I have personal experince with GHB and methadone- during my time as an ambulance medic I have treated a lot of overdoses with both drugs and can tell you that a drop in use of weed coupled with increase in use of GHB and kethamine is nothing to be complacent about. Those are very dangerous drugs, easy to overdose and in the case of kethamine and GBL (the precursor of GHB and a drug in its own right) readily available for other purposes (veterinary medicine and paint removing).

    As a conclusion to my rant I would say that indeed we need a discussion about what to do with drugs, but fr everybodys's sake let us present the facts as they are.

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  • 14. At 10:25am on 02 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    jon112uk

    The problem with the experiment in South London was that it was limited to a small area, therefore every drug user from the surrounding areas converged on the one place they wouldn't be arrested.

    If done on a national level this would not happen as all of the drug users would not need to move to any one place so you wouldn't get the same effect.

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  • 15. At 10:42am on 02 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    Further to my post #13

    It is exactly as I thought- according to the CATO report the life-time prevalnce of drug use in Portugal for the ages 15-24 has actually risen after the 'legalisation'. Yet the slide showing that is not shown in your post, Mark.

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  • 16. At 11:04am on 02 Jul 2009, Will P wrote:

    Why do some people think that "the sky would fall in" if drug use was decriminalised / legalised? What facts or opinion do they use to justify that position?

    To me, its quite obvious that anyone who currently wants to take a drug doesn't have to look far to get hold of it. Do the doom-mongerers out there seriously think that there are vast swathes of people awaiting the legalisation of heroin just so they can go and score themselves a heroin addiction? Those doom-mongerers seem totally out of touch with the reality of human life. Humans don't make decisions about what substances they consume on the basis of an arbitrary law. We're far more complex and irrational. That's why drug users (including the so called legal drug users of alcohol and tobacco) consume something they "know" is harmful.

    What bothers me about lauding decriminalisation is that its an unsustainable and undesirable halfway house. If possession is to hold less than 10 days worth of supply, does that make everyone who has 11 days worth, a dealer? What if a user decided to reduce their costs by buying in bulk? So, through decriminalisation, the drug market dynamic is for more regular contact with the criminal gangs who still control drug distribution. That can't be a good thing.

    Drug related violence is not effectively dealt with through decriminalisation. The police and justice system are put in an untenable position of either supporting someone caught with a drug or charging them with dealing and throwing the book at them. No wonder some police don't like the policy... but I'd add to that - the police are certainly not the best ones to make reasoned judgements on drug laws.

    Whilst I don't know of any examples, I would guess that decriminalisation increases the possibility of state corruption or collusion between officials and drug gangs. I wonder if anyone has done any work on this?

    So, whilst its pleasing to see a growing awareness of alternatives to outright drug prohibition, I think we've got some way to go to develop effective drug policies which tackles the negative effects of the drug market from production through to distribution and consumption.

    Full legalisation is our only hope.

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  • 17. At 11:29am on 02 Jul 2009, pandatank wrote:

    I agree with the comments of #1. The further add to the Hemp debate, Henry Ford exhibited a car in the late '20s early 30's which with the exception of engine and suspension was built entirely out of Hemp, it was half the weight and he used to hit it with a sledgehammer to show how strong it was. A large contributor to CO2 emissions is the cement/concrete industry, but Hemcrete (a commercially available product) actually cancels out the CO2 from the production and also captures and stores it. It also enables houses to exceed current Building regulations insulation values (by 2x) without increasing wall thickness and doubles up as sound and fire insulation as well. It is made from chopped up stalks. Pyrolisation of the leaves produces Methanol (an extremely potent fuel). The seeds are a food source (marzipan was originally hemp seed + almond). The hurds (centre of the stalk) makes excellent paper and the roots are excellent for ground stabilisation and prevention of erosion. The plant needs no fertiliser or pesticides. Second only to Bamboo in its rate of growth and the ability to have 4 crops per year, the US and others need to seriously consider separating the industrial uses for hemp from cultivation for recreational use if they are to tackle the crises of diminishing energy supply and pollution/CO2 levels.

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  • 18. At 11:53am on 02 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    14. At 10:25am on 02 Jul 2009, Secratariat
    "......The problem with the experiment in South London was that it was limited to a small area, therefore every drug user from the surrounding areas converged on the one place ....."
    ===============

    Hi, yes I understand your point, but I was looking more at Mark's coverage from Portugal. The South London thing was reported as a big success for a time. Then later on we found out SOME of the local people were saying it was not a success, but we had never heard from those people in the media.

    I'd just like Mark to tell us all of the story from Portugal - is it really true that everyone in Portugal thinks this working, or is there another side to we have not been told about?

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  • 19. At 11:59am on 02 Jul 2009, domcleo wrote:

    Dear Mark, I've been living in Portugal for 7 years now. And even I didn't realize that the consumption of drugs was not illegal, including in public. I thought it was tolerated, but not completely.
    That explains why you don't really hear about the drugs policy in Portugal. It's as if the government doesn't want everybody to know that you could shoot heroin in the park or on the beach or on the church steps at high noon and the cops can't arrest you. Which I have seen, by the way. People shooting heroin in a neighbourhood park in broad daylight. I admit it was somewhat shocking to see. Smoking dope is one thing, but heroin?
    When you walk around Lisboa, especially in the evening and at night, you will often see kids and full grown adults, burning hash in their hands, rolling joints and then smoking them without a care in the world. In places like Bairro Alto, it's the custom. It's as much a part of the culture as is Fado, Caldo Verde and Sagres. And during the Festas de Santo António, the streets are choked with smoke from churrasco, sardines and hashixe. Quite the aroma.
    Recently I travelled to Amsterdam, Paris, London and Toronto. I was surprised at how little drug use I saw. Amsterdam being the exception of course, but they only smoke it in the coffee shops, never outdoors in public. Not that it doesn't happen, but the Dutch are pretty respectful of the law.
    Personally, I think it's the right way to go, although I still think the goofy Dutch have a better system.
    Not only have they decriminalized drug use, they've legalized and regulated the sale as well. And they make money off the taxes, which means the citizens of Holland make money from selling drugs. The Dutch are all drug dealers. Now that's a civilized country.
    dom cleo
    "o estrangeiro"

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  • 20. At 12:32pm on 02 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    - jon112uk

    Some people get up in arms about pretty much anything :)

    It doesn't mean that what they are up in arms about is necessarily valid. For instance did the figures show a rise in use and a rise in problems affecting them, or were they just angry that "evil junkies" didn't have to fear the police any more?

    People's perceptions and reality don't always align, especially where there is a perceived moral point at issue.

    One would hope that with a reasoned debate that a consensus could be reached. But that may be to hope too much given the lack of reasoned debate at a political level and the fearmongering that has occurred in the British educational system for the last few decades.

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  • 21. At 12:34pm on 02 Jul 2009, junai139 wrote:

    #10

    I can see the logic in your point but i don't think it would work like that. Growing tobacco and growing marijuana are very different processes. Most marijuana is grown indoors using hydroponics whereas tobacco is grown outdoors using soil as the medium. I think it's more likely that fruit growers (tomatoes, chillis, etc.) would be more likely to have the expertise needed to grow marijuana. The tabacco companies could decide at some point that there is profit to be made from weed but the initial outlay is too great when there are food growers out there who already have the technology and expertise.

    As for shipping/distribution/marketing - well any company can do that - if there's a demand they will get the product out there.

    However, i don't think the tobacco companies need to see cannabis as a threat to their business. In Europe (it's different in USA) most people smoke weed with tobacco - the two have an almost symbiotic relationship. If anything the legalisation of cannabis could save the tobacco companies.

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  • 22. At 12:44pm on 02 Jul 2009, junai139 wrote:

    #13

    "The example of Portugal which does not prosecute drug users is taken as evidence that Britain should completely legalise all drugs, start manifacturing and selling them to users in order to make money. This apart from being morally bankrupt is also something that has no chance of ever happening in Britain."

    Err . . . no-one said that. The point was made that if drugs were legalised the government could make money via taxation. That's not the same as directly selling drugs themselves. In fact it's exactly the same as the situation that currently exists with regards to alcohol and tobacco. The government tells us they are harmful but takes the tax cheque all the same. Surely this is also a 'morally bankrupt' position?

    I agree with you - i don't foresee a time when the government will be selling drugs directly to the public but then i also don't foresee a time when the government will be selling any product direct to the public, harmful or otherwise. It's a government not a business (or at least so we're led to believe).

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  • 23. At 1:00pm on 02 Jul 2009, Desiderius Erasmus wrote:

    I have just come back from Albufeira on the Algarve. I was not aware of the Portuguese drug laws, so I was somewhat shocked when on my first walk down "The Strip" I was approached 3 times in front of families with kids, with the question "Crack, Charlie, Smoke?", quite openly and with Police vaguely in the area.
    Whilst I lean towards the state supply and general decriminalisation of most drug use, I don't think drug dealers should be untouched by the law.
    It seems to me that although Portugal has taken an important first step, they have also allowed drug dealing to become quite open (The 10 days supply rule, makes dealing easy and possible), and this means that criminals are still involved in the trade.
    If however they completed the logical circle of the argument, they would provide the drugs at low prices in street kiosks etc, thus providing the state with revenue, kiosks owners with a replacement for cigarette sales, and most importantly of all taking the smuggler and traffickers out of the money loop, thus removing crime from the equation.

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  • 24. At 1:19pm on 02 Jul 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    I'm sorry, I simply don't buy the implied argument that, once legalised, people will magically stop taking drugs. I just doesn't make any sense. Portugal is also different from the UK in that, on the whole, young people do not drink excessively, the drink-related violence is not as ubiquitous as it is in the UK, and their teenage pregnancy rate is extremely low. Put bluntly, their young people are nicer than ours! Ditto Holland. I can understand some legalisation under these circumstances, but to roll this out in Britain, with its history of drunken violence and plunging morality, is like throwing petrol on a burning house.

    The pro-legals miss the point that we don't WANT any people to take these illegal drugs, so making it easier to get them makes no sense at all. Drugs still have the ability to cause misery, addiction and death whether they're legalised or not. All legalisation means is that the police can wash their hands of the issue. The misery and problems stay the same, except now they are transferred to the legal arena - to drug workers, social workers, hospitals, doctors etc. The reduction in the policing workload will be massively outweighed by the additional needs that will arise from legalisation - the report implies as much.

    The majority of the pro-legalisers take the selfish view that they want to be free to indulge in marijuana or cocaine or whatever, whenever they like. They just want to be free to get off their heads a couple of times a week. They don't care about the problems that their recreational use causes now. They don't care that the drugs they take put money in the hands of criminal gangs and dealers. So you can't expect them to care about the additional costs, both social and monetary, that will arise from legalisation. It is a nasty trait of a society so hell-bent on personal satisfaction that it will happily junk any thought of morality or anything else that might stand in their way.

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  • 25. At 1:53pm on 02 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    after reading several of the posts especially dom cleo's I don't think decriminalisation is really an option. My main concern is children, i dont care what adults do aslong as they dont affect others then they should be free to do what they want, but we as a society have a responsibility too protect our children. The current prohibition laws are doing the total opposite instead of protecting children it is protecting dealers incomes, and incriminating children its all wrong. Access to drugs, as all are aware is very easy and probably easier for children, so i believe the only workable option is legalisation, all drugs need to be controlled not just called a controlled drug, when they are obviously not controlled well maybe by the dealers, they need to be controlled and restricted to ADULTS, which includes alcohol, currently the restrictions on alcohol are failing so the system needs to be changed or properly enforced, if an adult supplies a child with ANY form of drug which is restricted then they should pay heavily, prison maybe and with the legalisation of drugs we could quite easily afford to lock up these people, treat more addicts and protect children. I just wonder why our Gov past and present are so keen to protect the dealers income.

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  • 26. At 2:03pm on 02 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    21. At 12:34pm on 02 Jul 2009, junai139 wrote:
    "....i don't think it would work like that. Growing tobacco and growing marijuana are very different processes. Most marijuana is grown indoors using hydroponics whereas tobacco is grown outdoors using soil as the medium...."
    ======================

    I agree the illicit stuff is grown like that in Europe, but not the large scale production elsewhere. South America, Mexico, and many others (even isolated rural areas in the USA) grow it by the ton in fields.

    If it was lawful then the tobacco companies would pretty soon have mass production on commercial farms and processed in large factories. They would need tons, not kilos. No different than when they ended prohibition in the US: the big companies started up their distilleries and breweries days later.

    I would have thought tobacco companies would be rubbing their hands in glee if cannabis was fully legalised. Don't forget their last product range is starting a decline in western countries - they need a replacement.



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  • 27. At 2:04pm on 02 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    Secratariat

    Thank you...I'm stunned, thank you seems such an inadequate reply.


    forgottenukcitizen

    As far as I'm aware, there are no states in the USA that have fully decriminalised Marijuana use.

    I was not fully sure about this myself either which is why I left it a bit vague.

    Isenhorn

    Compare for example the post by Jacknet, who suggest that the Government can 'earn cash' from selling drugs to drug addicts- where exactly in your post is mention that? Are we to believe that indeed the Portugese Government has fallen so low as to (in order to earn cash) sells drugs to drug-addicts, who sleep 'Beneath a tent of blankets on a steep bank, surrounded by discarded syringes and blood'?

    You are fully correct I did not intend to imply that the Portuguese government was selling drugs, so many apologies for not being more precise.

    Though given that people are going to continue to take drugs, then I would have thought that it is far better for the money to go to the government via tax than to the criminal drug gangs which is where it goes now. Surely supporting the continuing "War on Drugs" is just supporting the criminal drug gangs and their cash flow.

    Cracovian

    Why do some people think that "the sky would fall in" if drug use was decriminalised / legalised? What facts or opinion do they use to justify that position?

    This is something that I cannot understand either as just for example looking back into recent UK history we have the Victorian era.

    This is generally looked on as a time of mass invention, amazing engineering feats, family values, the rise of numerous charities and welfare organisations (Salvation Army, the RSPCA and the NSPCC to name a few) and yet at the same time it was fully legal and socially accepted to go down to the local corner shop/tobacconist/chemist and buy whatever drugs you fancied, marijuana cigarettes made by the main tobacco companies, opium, cocaine and possibly heroin (not sure) and not only were these all sold, but also used in various "health" tonics, medical health and prescriptions etc and the world did not collapse then, if anything it ran quite well. Yes there was vast problems with The Workhouse, child labour and homelessness but we now have a working functioning welfare state.

    The other thing is we are told "Drugs are Bad" and yet almost everyone, even in just the UK alone, willingly, knowingly and quite happily takes "Drugs" every day and this Drug is a psychoactive substance and central nervous system (CNS) stimulant which if taken in overdose can include the following side effects :-

    Restlessness, nervousness, excitement, insomnia, flushing of the face, increased urination, gastrointestinal disturbance, muscle twitching, a rambling flow of thought and speech, irritability, irregular or rapid heart beat, and psychomotor agitation.

    In cases of much larger overdoses, mania, depression, lapses in judgement, disorientation, dis-inhibition, delusions, hallucinations, and psychosis may occur, and rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue) can be provoked. (according to the lazy use of Wikipedia)

    Yet because this drug is so intertwined with society and we are so aware and educated to the effects of using this drug it does not even occur to most people that it is actually a drug they are taking.

    We use this drug to help us get going in the morning, help us through the day and conversely it's also used to help us relax and unwind, we even have set breaks during work hours to stop and take this drug.

    People take this drug because they enjoy the effect, the flavour and it's a social thing as well. We also are aware of the withdrawal pangs of this drug. How many times has anyone reading this thought "I really fancy a cup of coffee/tea to relax/unwind/get me started for the day/etc/etc". Caffeine... It is a drug, we take it and we happily self regulate the amount we take to not cause ourselves any major harm. Paracetamol is a drug, there are loads of drugs we take on a daily basis.

    Yet because some are labelled "Drugs" this automatically attaches a stigma and the "I'm not a drug user" thoughts come to the front whilst having a cup of coffee and them maybe a glass of wine or beer with the meal later. All are "drugs" and all capable of being addictive and abused, but the vast majority of people are able to enjoy and use (not abuse) these and still hold down a normal lifestyle.

    Yes there are some people how have problems controlling their use and it becomes abuse, but then this is true of every single substance/activity I can think of (chocolate, food, alcohol, exercise, work, sports, browsing the internet hmmm)

    Those people who do have problems controlling themselves are helped while the rest of the population carries on using not abusing. We don't ban chocolate or food because some people cannot stop eating and cause themselves serious life threatening health problems. So why the "drug" ban.

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  • 28. At 2:08pm on 02 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    I hope my previous comment a few minutes ago comes out clear as I was in the middle of editing it and clicked post instead or preview... ooppsss

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  • 29. At 2:20pm on 02 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    junai139,

    The argument that the Government will not be selling drugs for money but merely taxing other people selling them is akin to the argument that it was not the American government but the Blackwater employess shooting people in Iraq. Of course the Government will not be selling drugs directly- the Government prefers to let other people do the dirty work and get their money as taxes. The net result in both cases is the same- Britain earning money from human misery to spend them on 'worthy' causes such as wars and new Trident missiles.

    Regardig the moral bancruptcy of taxing alcochol and cigarettes- yes, it is morally bancrupt. As long as money is made from selling booze and cigarettes the Government will continue with the half-measures of discouraging their use but tollerating some poor souls poisoning themselves, but bringing tax revenue.

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  • 30. At 2:28pm on 02 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    LippyLippo

    I'm sorry, I simply don't buy the implied argument that, once legalised, people will magically stop taking drugs.

    No-one is saying this. What is being said and has been shown before is that once all drugs become commonplace and accepted then the numbers of users drop because you lose the people who are taking it for the rebellious side and the cool factor of just stepping outside the law. They all become common place and nothing to get excited about.


    Lippylippo

    They just want to be free to get off their heads a couple of times a week. They don't care about the problems that their recreational use causes now. They don't care that the drugs they take put money in the hands of criminal gangs and dealers. So you can't expect them to care about the additional costs, both social and monetary, that will arise from legalisation.

    I'm sorry but we DO CARE about the money going to criminal gangs which is why to legalise it is the only way to stop the vast profits the criminals are making (this was proved conclusively in the USA during and after prohibition). So by supporting the continuing illegal state of drugs you are directly increasing and supporting the money going to the criminal drug gangs, NOT stopping it.

    The problems with recreational drug use is mainly caused by it being illegal with no controls on the age of the buyer or the quality of the product and no education/awareness on what is a safe amount to take. It's like knowing nothing about alcohol and being offered 2 pint glasses. One full of a std beer/lager and the other full of vodka. With no awareness or education it is impossible to make a sensible decision on which will be too much to drink.

    Any additional costs (if any) will be more than covered by us not having to pay out of our own tax money the billions every year in the War on Drugs plus all the additional tax income and jobs from the sale, production, shipping and marketing this would produce.

    Finally people are going to keep taking these drugs as they have been for thousands of years. It's not going to be stopped.

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  • 31. At 2:33pm on 02 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #24 LippyLippo

    "I can understand some legalisation under these circumstances, but to roll this out in Britain, with its history of drunken violence and plunging morality, is like throwing petrol on a burning house."

    Because people don't know how to get drugs now? Right?
    Because Prohibition works so well that this isn't already the case?

    Nonsense.

    "The pro-legals miss the point that we don't WANT any people to take these illegal drugs"

    No. YOU don't want people to take drugs because YOU have preconceived notions about their effects on people and the level of harm they cause.

    "The misery and problems stay the same, except now they are transferred to the legal arena - to drug workers, social workers, hospitals, doctors etc. The reduction in the policing workload will be massively outweighed by the additional needs that will arise from legalisation - the report implies as much."

    1. Who says the Portuguese method is perfect? This report shows that from a pure harm-reduction viewpoint it is an improvement on what we have now.

    2. That's why you tax them.

    "The majority of the pro-legalisers take the selfish view that they want to be free to indulge in marijuana or cocaine or whatever, whenever they like. They just want to be free to get off their heads a couple of times a week. They don't care about the problems that their recreational use causes now."

    They take the view that it's your puritan attitude and the resulting laws that cause this. Or don't care, true, either or. You can't change this though, and keeping drugs illegal won't magically make the effects go away.

    How long have we been trying this method? And how much longer do you think we should go on beating our heads against this particular brick wall in the insane hope that maybe, just maybe, this year everyone will see it your way and stop taking drugs?


    "So you can't expect them to care about the additional costs, both social and monetary, that will arise from legalisation."

    There need not be any. Your assertions to the contrary are not based on anything but your own ranting.


    "It is a nasty trait of a society so hell-bent on personal satisfaction that it will happily junk any thought of morality or anything else that might stand in their way."

    What is immoral about taking drugs? And don't say "funneling money to gangs", because that is one of the things what legalisation can stop, and you are arguing against it.

    YOU are the immoral one,YOU continue to argue that we should criminalise people for activity that harms only themselves, YOU are the one arguing for a continuing and highly profitable black market because YOU have decided that these things need to be illegal regardless of the facts and regardless of the detriment to your own society and your own life.

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  • 32. At 2:40pm on 02 Jul 2009, b223dy wrote:

    The defence industry imo is the biggest gainer in keeping drugs illegal. They supply both the drug cartels and governments the weapons and technology they use. This is why most war mongering nations cannot do the right thing by decriminalising such drugs. They see the 'drug' industry as a weapons testing ground to illegally harm people with a legal cover up in their laws
    Where 'drugs' are sold freely without any law enforcement officers present, one could see relative pease, but by the time these officers get involved the sellers start getting desperate as well as the users which then leads to caous and inevertibly harm. When governments realise that illicit drug dealers do need their customers relatively healthy and financially stable to make a profit, that its only when they intervene with force that dealers and consumers are pushed to desperate measures, which is when we hear about smuggling and killings and even more dangerous substances as quality of the drugs is depreciate.

    The Portuguese model is welcoming news to rest of the world, that the hype and gangster life of drug barons can be defeated without excessive espences and loss to human life through the barrel of a gun

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  • 33. At 3:39pm on 02 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    lippylippo, 'The pro-legals miss the point that we don't WANT any people to take these illegal drugs', firstly you speak on your own behalf so its 'I don't WANT any people to take these illegal drugs' not we so then we see your argument for what it really is, your moral righteousness you want to force on others... secondly i can't see many of you on this debate actually saying we don't want drugs legalised, i see more comments leaning towards changing the current legislation.

    Isenhorn, the largest group of drug users (cannabis) will argue that they lives are far from miserable, no more miserable than a none smoker. It is only a small minority that use the drugs you are probably referring too ie heroin, which if abused can cause a variety of social issues, but anyway who are you and how are you qualified to judge the happiness of the rest of society? It makes me angry to see children use drugs, and under prohibition they are. No one has been able to put forwards a positive argument for prohibition on the anti legalise side yet, so as far as im concerned making money off drugs is no different as making money off alcohol as long as kids aren't involved in the process and btw i think the trident renewal programme along with prohibition is a total waste of money maybe use the extra money for education, nhs or policing, would seem more sensible than building a nuke we will never use.

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  • 34. At 3:56pm on 02 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    31. At 2:33pm on 02 Jul 2009, Gothnet wrote:
    LOADS OF THINGS
    ....and Gothnet - I agree with all of it.

    24. At 1:19pm on 02 Jul 2009, LippyLippo wrote:
    "I'm sorry, I simply don't buy the implied argument that, once legalised, people will magically stop taking drugs"

    Who said they would? No-one is saying that legalisation will magically stop drugs, and if that was the argument we were making, it would be totally pointless, as you suggest.

    Come on - use common sense. Stop looking at drug users as the media hyped 'hoodie' or social outcast, living rough. Those people exist, but are more likely to be using alcohol to 'get by'.

    It is precisely because drug use is considered by people that have the same opinion as you; as lesser people, as the dregs of society; that we need to bring this out into the open.

    As Jaknet so eloquently put it, "I really fancy a cup of coffee/tea to relax/unwind/get me started for the day/etc/etc". For my part, I've been taking caffeine all day, had two cans of coke (cos it's 30C out there today) and will get home tonight, crack open a can of whatever beer I have in the fridge, and down a cool one while smoking a cigarette or maybe a spliff.

    I've paid my mortgage, bought my TV license, taxed my car, paid my electric bill, and now I'm going to enjoy whatever is left. Does any of that make me an immoral person?

    Maybe I should put on a hoodie and sneak around the back streets scaring the heck out of little old ladies - would that fit into your stereotype?

    We need to de-stigmatise the substance, de-criminalise the user and bring proper controls to ensure protection of our children (as someone posted recently), so that drug use is recognised for just what it is - a normal widespread social activity.

    With proper taxation / duty applied to a regulated industry, funds would be there to finance a crippled NHS that is currently working under the Mental Health Act and in a semi-secret support network. Recreational users, would be, through tax, providing support to those that needed it most and helping to bring it out of the shadows and into the mainstream.



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  • 35. At 3:58pm on 02 Jul 2009, hawk_is_howling wrote:

    Many of the nay sayers are still nay saying it seems. The whole point of this article is not to make a rediction or judgement or speculate on any of the reasons as to why exactly we see these reduction in harms and addiction.

    The point of the article is to say - all the doom peddlers who predicted an explosion of drug use and a situation out of hand were WRONG.

    The point is not that decriminalisation will work in the UK - the point is that decriminalisation as a policy CAN work, and is a viable alternative to the "War on Drugs", which has been proven time and time again to be a failed policy that won't quit.

    The fact that Portugal has had such success means that we should at least entertain the possibility that decriminalisation can work, and try to figure out how we could apply it to our society. I think it is a safe bet that, just like in Portugal, the nay sayers will be proven wrong.

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  • 36. At 4:03pm on 02 Jul 2009, junai139 wrote:

    #26

    True Jon - marijauna can be and is grown outdoors but this is an inefficient way of producing the crop. It takes much longer to grow outdoors,(months as opposed to around six weeks indoors, is harder to protect from pests and produces a product with less THC in it.

    The reason it is grown indoors using hydroponics is not only because of the illicit nature of cannabis production but also because it is a better way of producing it.

    For example tomatoes, chillis, peppers can be grown outdoors and in the past were but now they are generally grown indoors because you get a higher yield per acre.

    Besides the most popular forms of cannabis are the indica and indica/sativa strains (skunk to me and you) and these cannot be grown outdoors as they need very specific conditions in order to flower (they are essentially man-made strains).

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  • 37. At 4:22pm on 02 Jul 2009, jayfurneaux wrote:

    I'm interested in how Maria, Joanna (and others) fund their habit? Prostitution, theft, burglary and robbery?

    I think I prefer the Swiss model whereby the Govt does supply heroin to long-term addicts; recognising that for these abstention or methadone maintenance are unlikely to work (probably been tried and failed several times) and supplying heroin to them both cuts crime (which harms others) and reduces the chances of addicts encountering impure heroin (a health measure).
    The Swiss public voted in favour of this measure in a single issue referendum.

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  • 38. At 4:39pm on 02 Jul 2009, junai139 wrote:

    #29

    "The argument that the Government will not be selling drugs for money but merely taxing other people selling them is akin to the argument that it was not the American government but the Blackwater employess shooting people in Iraq. Of course the Government will not be selling drugs directly- the Government prefers to let other people do the dirty work and get their money as taxes. The net result in both cases is the same- Britain earning money from human misery to spend them on 'worthy' causes such as wars and new Trident missiles."

    Quite. However i'd rather we make money from 'human misery' than spend money on it, which is what we are doing now. Spending billions of pounds on a futile exercise, that criminalises otherwise law abiding people, causes far more misery than letting them live their lives the way they see fit (which is what people do anyway).

    I just don't understand the argument that legalising will suddenly make everyone want to take drugs. It simply wont. No-one is stopped from taking drugs because they are illegal. It's exactly the same with the whole 'lock up criminals and throw away the key' argument. Deterrents don't work for the simple reason that no-one thinks they'll get caught. The US government kills certain criminals. Has this had any effect on their crime rates? If the deterrent argument were true nations with the death penalty would have lower crime rates that those which don't and this is patently not the case. Deterrents don't work because everyone thinks they'll get away with it - that they're too clever to be caught.

    The same is true of taking drugs - very few people are put off by the possibility of being caught. For a start they see people around them taking drugs and not getting caught and secondly they know that if they do get caught, as long as they only have a small amount on them, they'll just get a slap on the wrist.

    So criminalising doesn't work. How about the health aspect? Surely drugs are illegal because they're really bad for us? Well yes they are bad for us but so is: alcohol, tobacco, caffine, paracetamol, aspirin, chocolate, cream-cakes, crisps, bacon, car exhaust fumes (i could go on but i thin you've got the point).

    Not only that but we have scientific evidence that suggests that our legal drugs, alcohol and tabacco are mor damaging than many of our illegal drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy, speed etc. So on one hand we're told these substances are really bad for your health but we'll let you consume whereas these are less harmful but we're not going to let you have them. We'd rather you take the more harmful ones.

    So the legal aspect makes no sense. The health aspect makes no sense. Is it any wonder people just don't care and take whatever they want? How can the argument for keeping certain drugs illegal and others legal have any credibility when that status is arbitrarily decided upon based on no scientfic evidence whatsoever? In fact their status decided upon contrary to the scientific evidence. Oh, but of course i forgot . . . drugs are 'wrong'.

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  • 39. At 4:46pm on 02 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    LippyLippo, if Heroin were legalised tomorrow, would you start using it ?

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  • 40. At 4:53pm on 02 Jul 2009, Makeze wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 41. At 5:28pm on 02 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    I think the moderators are on a caffeine or nicotine break - bad people - look how they make us wait :-)

    Maybe therein lies an argument to make coffee and smoke breaks illegal.

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  • 42. At 5:53pm on 02 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    bansis #25.

    "My main concern is children, i dont care what adults do aslong as they dont affect others then they should be free to do what they want, but we as a society have a responsibility too protect our children."

    exactly, and IF the government were to control/regulate/tax the sale of (currently) proscribed substances, at least they'd be able to guarantee that the drugs aren't adulterated by unscrupulous dealers.


    bdyke04 #32.

    "The defence industry imo is the biggest gainer in keeping drugs illegal. They supply both the drug cartels and governments the weapons and technology they use."

    perhaps that's why cannabis had to be made illegal? remember that in the late 60s the slogan was 'Make Love Not War' and the establishment struggled to contain the anti-Vietnam protests.

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  • 43. At 6:11pm on 02 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    I thought the UK was supposed to be a democracy?

    I'm 42 and no-one has ever asked whether I agree these drugs should be illegal whilst more dangerous drugs are legal or not. It's always "The Government knows best" even when they ignore the recommendations of their own medical advisers.

    Ask the public what they want!

    Bring it to a vote!

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  • 44. At 6:59pm on 02 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    LippyLippowrote:
    "They don't care about the problems that their recreational use causes now. They don't care that the drugs they take put money in the hands of criminal gangs and dealers."

    How do you know ?
    How many drug users have you asked ?

    Most, if not all, drug users that I know want drugs to be legalised & regulated so that their drugs are not being sold by criminal gangs. They'd much rather buy their drugs from a British retailer after they've been produced by a British farmer or pharmacy. They want them to be regulated so that they are not funding criminals as well as being of a guaranteed purity & dosage. Just like alcohol & tobacco.


    Try reading about the problems of prohibition in America:

    "there have been two periods with high homicide rates in U.S. history, the 1920-1934 period and the 1970-1990 period. Both before the first episode and between these two episodes, homicide rates were relatively low or clearly declining. Prima facie, this pattern is consistent with the hypothesis that alcohol prohibition increased violent crime: homicide rates are high in the 1920-1933 period, when constitutional prohibition of alcohol was in effect; the homicide rate drops quickly after 1933, when Prohibition was repealed; and the homicide rate remains low for a substantial period thereafter. Further, the homicide rate is low during the 1950s and early 1960s, when drug prohibition was in existence but not vigorously enforced, but high in the 1970-1990 period, when drug prohibition was enforced to a relatively stringent degree."

    Source: http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/miron.prohibition.alcohol


    So, in simple terms, the murder rate in America declined until they introduced prohibition of alcohol when it increased significantly. Then when the law was repealed the murder rate dropped significantly until the prohibition of drugs was enforced, the murder rate has continued to rise ever since.

    Prohibition is the cause of most of the problems associated with drug use, not the drug use itself.

    Legalisation, regulation & taxation would remove or reduce most of these problems.

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  • 45. At 7:15pm on 02 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    Talk about amazing timing. Here's an article from Scientific American which comes to the same conclusion.

    quote [A spokesperson for the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy declined to comment,]

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=portugal-drug-decriminalization

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  • 46. At 7:34pm on 02 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    36. At 4:03pm on 02 Jul 2009, junai139 wrote:

    #26

    True Jon - marijauna can be and is grown outdoors but this is an inefficient way of producing the crop.
    =============================================

    Don't get me wrong I'm not questioning that people produce (relatively) small quantities like that.

    But if it is fully legal then it is going to need production in multi-ton quantities - like tobacco. Wait and see how long it takes for a tobacco company to produce whatever variety or flavour you want in 500 acre field, in some low wage country, tended by one guy on a GPS guided tractor.

    Certainly all the infrastructure you need for processing/packaging/transport/distribution/marketing on a mass scale, a cigarette with a different sort weed in it is already up and running in the hands of the tobacco companies - however they choose to grow the weed.

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  • 47. At 8:20pm on 02 Jul 2009, forgottenukcitizen wrote:

    24. LippyLippo

    Lippy, you seem to have so many preconceptions in your post.
    Never the less, I will try to reply

    1. Pro decriminalisation people, such as myself, want to get money out of the hands of criminals, not put it in (see my previous post 11 regarding the effects of US prohibition of alcohol).

    2. Nobody is saying that everybody will stop taking drugs if we change legislation; they have been taking them since the dawn of time & will continue to do so regardless of legislation or our opinions.

    3. What makes you think that the drug workers, social workers, hospitals, doctors etc arent already dealing with the issues? They are & the costs are rising all the time.

    4. Frankly, I dont really care either way as long as we do something that gets away from beating the same drum over & over again, even when we know its getting us nowhere at best, & at worst exacerbating the situation.
    Its not just the drugs issue either.
    The whole UK Government seems stagnant & unwilling to change on a whole range of issues, whether it is banking restrictions, the PFI, education, railways etc.
    At some point you just have to have courage, look a long-standing problem in the eye & ask the simple question of whether things are working out or not?

    The UK Government gave up on the UK population long ago & now they only support lobby & vested interest groups.
    This attitude does nothing for your opinions or mine, because in the end we will all loose out as a result.
    The current drugs legislation is a complete disaster, but what the hell,
    somebodys making some money out of it.
    Thats OK then, lets carry on regardless (said with cynical exasperation).

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  • 48. At 8:59pm on 02 Jul 2009, FatPeace - A Promise to Heather wrote:

    If we continue on the current path it's not inconceivable that in a decade or so we could find ourselves in a situation where thanks to the efforts of the Guardianista brigade it will be illegal to buy a Big Mac, and cans of fizzy pop are plastered with pictures of obese people and taxed at 200%, but where a smorgasbord of mind-bending drugs can be obtained from the local Tesco. Even the looniest leftie must surely appreciate that such a situation would represent an absurd corruption of public health and regulatory priorities. I always find myself wondering how many of the cheerleaders for drugs legalisation would be quite so enthusiastic if, like me, they lived in inner-city areas where deals take place in full view on street corners and from parked cars, where smackhead mums push malnourished kids in broken buggies and where the prospect of one's children, however decently-raised, eventually coming into contact with dangerous narcotics is a virtual certainty. But that's OK, at least they won't be tempted to consume the evil contraband peddled by the chip shop across the street, because some do-gooder will have decided long before that it should be closed down for being too close to a school.

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  • 49. At 10:25pm on 02 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    richie79

    I always find myself wondering how many of the cheerleaders for drugs legalisation would be quite so enthusiastic if, like me, they lived in inner-city areas where deals take place in full view on street corners and from parked cars, where smackhead mums push malnourished kids in broken buggies and where the prospect of one's children, however decently-raised, eventually coming into contact with dangerous narcotics is a virtual certainty.

    In your situation I would be demanding legalisation in a very loud voice as if drugs were legalised then the very people you are complaining about would be gone as they would not have any illegal drugs to do deals with.

    Children will not be able to get drugs from some dodgy person who does not care what the drugs contain. As the drugs would be sold from a licensed premises selling to adults only and the quality is ensured.

    How often do you see people selling alcohol or cigarettes on street corners or having turf battles over whose "patch" it is. You don't because they are legal. If someone wants a drink they just buy one from the shop and enjoy it.

    Yet that drink, be it beer/wine/spirits etc is proven by the governments own advisers to be more harmful than a lot of the illegal drugs.

    Awareness, honesty and education about drugs goes a lot further to prevent drug harm than any War on Drugs ever will

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  • 50. At 00:25am on 03 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    interesting programme on BBC3 tonight: 'Can I Get High Legally?'. frightening, really.

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  • 51. At 09:10am on 03 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    bansis @33,

    Why do you always ask questions such as 'who are you and how are you qualified to judge the happiness of the rest of society', aimed at nothing else but to bring the discussion to an exchange of personal remarks? Who I am does not matter, I am just giving my opinion to which I hope I am still entitled. If you do not agree with it then you are free to express your own opinions.
    I may not be qualified to judge the happines of the whole society, but I think I rather have some qualifications when it comes to drugs- I have worked as an ambulance medic and have seen for myself what the lelvels of drug taking are in nightclubs. Just one example- on one occasion another medic and myself treated no less than 42 people with overdose of GHB and kathamine. And that was in one night club only, although I will not say which one. Believe it or not, that is the truth. As we were both trained in dealing with precisely this type of cases we were able to sort them out without taking them to hospital. Now my question to you is- do you think those 42 people with overdose ever got to the statistics showing that the predominant drug used in Britain is cannabis and that drug usage is safe?
    Of course decriminalisation will work for the people who smoke pot at home after work. However, what about the very different picture of drug taking on a Saturday night? That is when you find a lot less weed and a lot more other horrible stuff.

    P.S. How do you suggest keeping children of drugs when they are all legally sold? If you try to ban them, would not the dealers just switch to seeling to youngester only or would not unscrupoulos adults buy it for them from the legal outlets? I cannot help it but imagine a pedofile grooming young girls with a few doses of coccaine in his pocket and the police just standing idle as he has bought it legally from the shop.

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  • 52. At 09:22am on 03 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    49. At 10:25pm on 02 Jul 2009, Jaknet
    "...In your situation I would be demanding legalisation in a very loud voice as if drugs were legalised then the very people you are complaining about would be gone as they would not have any illegal drugs to do deals with.

    Children will not be able to get drugs from some dodgy person who does not care what the drugs contain. As the drugs would be sold from a licensed premises selling to adults only and the quality is ensured...."
    ==============================

    This is one of the lines of argument I have never quite been able to follow: legalise it and everything will be ok.

    Alcohol is legal/regulated. Up and down the country teen drinking is a huge problem both for health issues and also crime/disorder issues. The surveys (OK not perfect evidence) show pretty clearly alcohol is much more common than illicit drugs in the under 18 teenagers.

    If you have a look on the health pages of this site, pretty much every week there is another research study or health initiative being released about the 'epidemic' level of harm being done by drinking.

    It's legal but it's still causing lots of problems.

    Why would legalised cannabis or crack cocaine or PCP or whatever you want to legalise be any different?

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  • 53. At 10:39am on 03 Jul 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    Wow! I am amazed at the reaction from some of the posters on here. I simply cant believe that anyone would WANT people to take currently illegal drugs. Why? There are no actual benefits beyond a handful of pain relief cases. Other than this, the single and only reason for using is to alter your state of mind to an extent that would make you largely unfit for normal functional life in the same way that excess alcohol does. Caffeine and nicotine in very low doses are really the only things you can take and still remain of any use to anyone. And for health reasons it would be better, on the whole, if people didnt use these. Cigarettes are legal but we dont want people to start smoking. Drink is legal but dont really want people getting drunk. And its not a great idea to swill umpteen cans of high-caffeine drinks either. The use of these substances is tolerated, but not actively promoted, for fear of encouraging it. And despite measures such as advertising bans, restrictions, high taxes etc., people still abuse both drink and tobacco, and we see the resultant problems all around us.

    Now some people want to throw drugs into the mix as well! Why? Dont we have enough problems already? Do they believe that people will stop using drink and cigarettes and move to the currently illegal substances? And if so, how on Earth is replacing drink with much, much stronger drugs going to help the situation?

    And how do you suppose all this will work? You say the drug dealers will go away, but this simply wont happen. They will instead switch to pushing the new legalised drugs onto those who cant get them through whatever legal mechanism is in operation. There will have to be some controls on the drugs even if theyre offered for sale in the corner shop Im quite sure youd need to be over 18 with some form of ID to get hold of them. Those under 18 and without ID (i.e. the most vulnerable in our society), will still have to resort to criminals to get their fix. If theyre only available in bonded out-of-town warehouses, with security checks, then you are introducing more barriers to supply that can and will be circumvented by criminals. And if the Govt does take tax from their sale, you can bet your bottom dollar they will set the taxes massively high to discourage use, with the result that people will still get it cheaper on the black market. So the criminals will still have a market, and will still push illegal, untaxed, unregulated, harmful or fake drugs.

    And what drugs will be legalised? All of them? Some of them? Those drugs that are not legalised will still be available from your friendly criminal dealer, who will continue to protect his market in the same way as he does today. If you want ALL drugs legalised, then you are supporting the wholesale selling of potentially deadly substances. What about drugs like Rohypnol? We all know the potential uses of this drug. What about hallucinogens such as LSD? What about dangerously addictive substances such as crystal meth, crack ,or heroin? How would you stop people combining drugs or synthesising their own from base substances? You simply couldnt. You cant compare drugs to alcohol. They are not the same thing and the potential for accidental or intentional harm is so much greater with drugs than with alcohol. There are so many drugs with the potential to cause serious harm that having these readily available is a recipe for disaster. Full legalisation would be insanity, and partial legalisation is no better than prohibition for the most vulnerable in our society.

    Who will benefit from changes to the legislation? Thats right - the same people who use drugs recreationally now. They will happily get their fix without legal action, and presumably adopt the same who cares attitude that they have now to any of the other problems. We cannot and must not be led by these selfish people who only want the law changed so they can indulge themselves without guilt or harassment. Saying but Im only hurting myself is untrue (as any victim of drug-induced violence will testify), and even if it IS true in some cases, its simply not a good reason to move to legalisation.

    I am all for taking a lenient view for bona fide medical uses such as relief from pain, and I am all for treating addicts as patients rather than as criminals. But I cannot support any move to legalisation and firmly believe it will do far more harm than good.

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  • 54. At 10:41am on 03 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #51 Isenhorn
    "How do you suggest keeping children of drugs when they are all legally sold?"

    #52 jon112uk
    "Alcohol is legal/regulated. Up and down the country teen drinking is a huge problem ... Why would legalised cannabis or crack cocaine or PCP or whatever you want to legalise be any different?"

    You both presuppose that keeping these things illegal is stopping anyone now. They are currently totally unregulated. Putting in ANY oversight is an improvement.

    As for "pedofiles", Isenhorn, please remember that the image of the predatory stranger is largely fabricated, most abuse comes from within the family and not a scary man in a long coat with a bag of sweets.

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  • 55. At 11:10am on 03 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    Isenhorn, I don't doubt you dealt with 42 ketamine and ghb OD's in one night, but the problem with these two drugs is that you as a medic may well be well educated on these drugs but the person receiving treatment probably isn't. There is virtually no ed. on these drugs. Even though it can be easy to overdose on ketamine not many people die, only a handful over the last decade. Legalising and controlling the sale of ketamine would help as the user could get precise info on doses and be assured of the strength and purity. My experiences with night clubs must be totally different, over 10 years of clubbing 3 times a week i never had a problem and the only problems i ever saw was caused by drunks, being a medic you would know that alcohol is the biggest problem across the country by far.
    Your fears over children seems to be a bit hysterical. If it is going to happen if drugs were ever legalised, then it is happening now, better too do something though. I also don't think dealers would then turn too children, adults are the main illegal drug users, the hard drug dealers want a stable addict who has regular money coming in, they wouldn't want a string of 12 year old addicts who couldn't afford a habit and may well grass them up too their parents/police. Also child abuse would still be illegal so i hope that police man is not idly sitting in his car watching the peado grooming the child as i would be on the phone to his guv'nor making a formal complaint.

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  • 56. At 11:14am on 03 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    LippyLippo ketamine is on the WHO essential drugs list, many Doctors and vets would argue it has primary importance in the medical world along with morphine same stuff as heroin.

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  • 57. At 11:14am on 03 Jul 2009, forgottenukcitizen wrote:

    52. jon112uk wrote:

    This is one of the lines of argument I have never quite been able to follow: legalise it and everything will be ok.

    Alcohol is legal/regulated. Up and down the country teen drinking is a huge problem both for health issues and also crime/disorder issues.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Nobodies saying that everything will be OK.
    The reason why alcohol is such a problem in the UK is the lack of Government discipline & a failure to enforce the existing legislation & punish accordingly.
    They could raise the age of sale to 21 years of age & enforce a one strike & youre out policy to those sellers who break this law, but that would result in a loss of revenue which is the real concern to them, not our health.

    Are you trying to suggest that, just because some teens have a total disregard for the law that I should be denied a right to participate in my (legal, but still dangerous) drug of choice a couple of evenings a week without incident?

    We already have plenty of historical evidence on what happens to democratic governments that try to enforce alcohol prohibition on a population that enjoys this drug.
    See my previous posts & tell me that there is no similarity between the resultant effects of US prohibition in the 20s & what we have now with the current illegal drugs market?

    The trouble is, once a market has been established for any drug, be that tobacco, alcohol, cocaine heroin et al, it is virtually impossible to stop it.
    There are a few countries that have the death penalty in place for drug trafficking, but even that does not stop them.
    Its not as if the current campaign in Afghanistan is having much of an effect on Opiate production either.

    It would help if a few more people realised that bundling all illegal drugs together under one banner doesnt help.

    Im sure you will agree with my sentiments regarding the total failure of the current drugs policy though, since if it has been any success at all, we would not be engaging in this thread.

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  • 58. At 11:15am on 03 Jul 2009, jon112uk wrote:

    54. At 10:41am on 03 Jul 2009, Gothnet wrote:
    "...You both presuppose that keeping these things illegal is stopping anyone now. They are currently totally unregulated. Putting in ANY oversight is an improvement...."
    =========================

    That's the argument I'm questioning. You are not just suggesting making currently illicit drugs regulated, but also legal. Alcohol is legal/regulated but the level of use of alcohol by under 18s is much higher than the use of unregulated cannabis/crack cocaine etc.

    The legal/regulated status of alcohol seems to be associated with a much higher rate of use. There are more problems, not less.

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  • 59. At 11:34am on 03 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    lippy, we wouldn't be replacing alcohol with even stronger drugs as alcohol is one of the stronger drugs already, all the illegal drugs would become alot less dangerous if they were legalised (the biggest danger to a user is arrest and the biggest danger to society is acquisition crime, which would be reduced if heroin was prescribed) and i believe nicotine would then become the most dangerous drug we take. The fact is all the drugs you worry about causing the downfall of society are here already and the people who want to take them are taking them, legalising wouldn't change that much but it would help to reduce the numbers and make it a lot safer for those who CHOOSE to as Portugal has proved. The potential for harm is very high with alcohol, higher than most illegal drugs you can easily compare them at the minimum 10x more deaths with alcohol compared to ALL the illegal drugs. You need to educate yourself one alcohol before you attack drug users as wrong

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  • 60. At 11:36am on 03 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    LippyLippo #53.

    "You cant compare drugs to alcohol. They are not the same thing and the potential for accidental or intentional harm is so much greater with drugs than with alcohol."

    your apparent ignorance is mind-boggling.


    jon112uk #58.

    "That's the argument I'm questioning."

    why? does actual evidence (Dutch, Portuguese experiences/statistics) not satisfy you?

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  • 61. At 11:55am on 03 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #53 LippyLippo

    "I simply cant believe that anyone would WANT people to take currently illegal drugs."

    Then you are not qualified to have an opinion on this debate. It's that simple.


    "Why? There are no actual benefits"

    Because people enjoy them. There are no "actual benefits" to extreme sports, computer games, model aircraft or a million and one other things people do for fun. Does that give you the right to stop them doing these things?


    "Now some people want to throw drugs into the mix as well! Why? Dont we have enough problems already?"

    Drugs are already in the mix, or haven't you heard? That's the whole point of this debate, trying to figure out the way to cause least harm to our own population in a world where banning drug use JUST DOESN'T WORK.

    "Do they believe that people will stop using drink and cigarettes and move to the currently illegal substances?"

    No.

    "And if so, how on Earth is replacing drink with much, much stronger drugs going to help the situation?"

    They're not all stronger. And most of them are less harmful and less addictive that either tobacco or alcohol. If you actually read any of the reports that the BBC have presented here (and the government have swept under the carpet) you would know this.

    "You cant compare drugs to alcohol. They are not the same thing and the potential for accidental or intentional harm is so much greater with drugs than with alcohol."

    This is utter nonsense and is not supported by any scientific research. You are simply putting across your own moral viewpoint, which is actually and provably wrong.


    "Full legalisation would be insanity, and partial legalisation is no better than prohibition for the most vulnerable in our society."

    Again, total nonsense.
    There are many possible reactions and policies to take in regards to addiction to hard drugs, a full spectrum in between sticking our heads in the sand and pretending banning things makes them go away (your solution, we've tried it, it doesn't work) and giving it away with every copy of evening standard. Safe supply, treatment and help rather than criminalisation and contaminated products would be a step in the right direction.

    "Who will benefit from changes to the legislation?"

    Everyone. Absolutely everyone.
    Drug dealers would be gone from the streets and gangs would be starved of money.Addicts would not be excluded from society in the same way and wouldn't feel the need to burgle to get their fix.
    Police would have a lot of time and resource freed up.


    "Saying but Im only hurting myself is untrue (as any victim of drug-induced violence will testify),"

    Most of the softer drugs (which are what people are proposing become a question of informed choice) are far less conducive to violence than alcohol. Most of the hard drugs cause violence because people want your money so they can pay hundreds of pounds a day for a substance that is so cheap it would cost next to nothing to give away free. By the way, if you think that anyone here is proposing that people should get away with committing other crimes whilst on drugs then you're wrong.


    "and even if it IS true in some cases, its simply not a good reason to move to legalisation."

    Do you believe in a free and democratic state? If I'm not harming anyone else then what right have you got to stop me doing something?

    Or are you more the sort that prefers to force your morality on others? Because that's what it sounds like.

    YOU don't see why people should be allowed to do this, so you have decided they can't, and that's that. Isn't it?


    "I am all for taking a lenient view for bona fide medical uses such as relief from pain, and I am all for treating addicts as patients rather than as criminals. But I cannot support any move to legalisation and firmly believe it will do far more harm than good."

    Your beliefs are based on lies and your own small minded morality.

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  • 62. At 12:26pm on 03 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    jon112uk

    That's the argument I'm questioning. You are not just suggesting making currently illicit drugs regulated, but also legal. Alcohol is legal/regulated but the level of use of alcohol by under 18s is much higher than the use of unregulated cannabis/crack cocaine etc.

    The legal/regulated status of alcohol seems to be associated with a much higher rate of use. There are more problems, not less.



    For the answer to your question about alcohol problems regards health and abuse. Just look to the historical proof and the complete failure of the prohibition of alcohol in the USA.

    Now with legal alcohol there are problems of some people who cannot handle drinking and become violent as well as people abusing and overdosing from alcohol.

    On the otherhand during prohibition not only was there exactly the same problems, but they were far worse due to no safety controls on the production and quality of alcohol, people being poisoned by criminal gangs only interested in making money and no regard for any health issues with badly brewed and dangerous ingredients in the brew (after all who is going to complain to the police as alcohol was illegal at the time). Vast sums of tax payers money wasted trying to control the problem. Alcohol easily available to children as the criminals don't care about age of customers. Not to mention all the money being made by the alcohol "runners"

    Al Capone (who I'm sure you have heard of) was only able to amass such a vast criminal mob syndicate due to alcohol being illegal. This also led to the mob wars.

    Can people NOT see the same thing going on with the state of illegal drug now as was happening in prohibition. Gang wars over areas to deal drugs in, drugs sold to children with no control, drugs with no safety of strength controls leading to overdoses and other health problem caused most of the time by unknown strength and unknown what else has been mixed with the drug.

    Change the word "drug" with "alcohol" and you have the same description of prohibition.

    Yes we still have children drinking under age, but it's far less than during prohibition and they are safer whilst doing it as the drink is not mixed with any poisons and it's of a known reliable strength. Not only that but because the police are not wasting their time trying to lock up every single person who has a glass of wine they have MORE time to crackdown on the adults responsible for allowing under age drinking in the first place. So again making drugs legal, controlled and of a known strength will only HELP the children, whilst keeping it illegal is only harming children and supporting the drug gangs.

    If you have children and there is the risk of them drinking under age. Which would you prefer that they get, cans of beer from the local shop which are safe to drink, and are of a known set strength. Or would you prefer they get a drink from some dodgy bloke in a run down part of town who is trying to avoid being seen by the police, selling bottles of some unknown liquid that has as much chance of being cleaning fluids, badly brewed or just complete unknown strength

    Also how would feel to find that the police were unable to stop the dodgy bloke selling unknown drink to children because they were far to busy trying to arrest every single adult who peacefully sits at home in the evening and relaxes with a glass of wine/can of beer/insert drink of choice. Would you not demand that the police leave responsible adults alone who are harming no one and deal with the bloke selling to kids.


    The drug laws that the USA enjoys pushing on the world are based on complete fabrication, lies and the scare tactics of Harry J. Anslinger during prohibition. The arguments he used to demand a crackdown on cannabis was that "one smoke and you would go insane" "wild drug parties with babies being injected with cannabis" The fact that he had vast interests in the paper industry and dupoint (who had just invented nylon) both wanted hemp removed because of it's competition in the paper, textile, clothing and industrial sectors is always overlooked.

    Drug Awareness & Real Education are the only ways to help combat drug harm. Just dare to speak the truth and stop the immoral support of the criminal drug gangs that out government is supplying with this War on Drugs.

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  • 63. At 12:28pm on 03 Jul 2009, livingFreeadvice wrote:


    Does anyone know when and why certain drugs were made illegal?
    I think it would be helpful to know the historical background.
    I have to say if it has anything to do with danger to health, why is alcohol so freely available? [Not that I have anything against alcohol in moderation.]
    Apart from being potentially lethal to teenagers who are unaware of how potent alcohol is or their limits, some teenagers will explore. No matter how much you educate, sometimes they just have to find out for themselves. [What can we do?]
    In addition, addiction to alcohol has been described as an illness that affects some people just like diabetes affects some people. [One theory.] So some individuals can be classified as heavy drinkers but never experience withdrawal symptoms.

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  • 64. At 12:39pm on 03 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    Is there anyone who can provide a reason for why drugs should remain illegal which will stand up to honest and civilised discussion.

    It's not down to the health benefits.

    It's not to "Think of the Children"

    It's not to reduce crime.

    It's not to remove drug gangs and gang violence.

    It's not to help the police deal with serious crime.

    All of these are not just ideas, but they have been proved fact in recent history by the prohibition in the states.


    The only thing I can see that keeping illegal drugs illegal is helping to do is to fund and support the very criminal gangs that everyone complains about.

    Why should I support any government that wastes vast amounts of my tax money supporting and supplying drug gangs with money and business and vast untaxed profits.

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  • 65. At 12:46pm on 03 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    Forgot to add.

    Why should we follow a law that has no basis in fact or any legitimate reason for it to exist. When this same law supports the gangs it claims to stop.

    How come there are so many top experts in the field of the drug war who now agree that the law should be removed. For example LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)http://www.leap.cc/cms/index.php

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  • 66. At 1:43pm on 03 Jul 2009, forgottenukcitizen wrote:

    64. Jaknet:

    I fear your common sense approach to this matter will be wasted on deaf ears.
    At the end of the day, people fall into 2 camps on this issue.

    1. Those who believe that continuing with the current legislation will some how improve the (worsening) situation.
    Such people fail to realise that its the current situation that got us where we are now, & such legislation only panders to the vested interest groups & criminal gangs that make their money from crime.

    2. Those who believe that we must apply historical evidence, experiences of other countries & logic to try to stabilise the situation instead of relying on stereo type, non factual & often bigoted opinions.

    As with Prostitution, you dont have to agree with it to appreciate that it has been with us for thousands of years & will continue regardless of what we may think.
    Far better to realise this & work for a safer, healthier (sic) environment for all, even if it is not exactly what we may wish for in a perfect world.

    Im afraid that those in camp 1 will always look on by those in camp 2 as Liberal Lefty types in the same way as they look at people who question immigration policies as Nazi racists.

    No surprises to which camp I lie.
    I can only hope that more people realise that we just cant go on as we are.

    If you care about your children, community, long-term health of the nation or the effects of growing gang violence, then you cant continue to support the current legislation or love ins with other countries that support the same.

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  • 67. At 1:46pm on 03 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    #61 Gothnet,

    I rather believe that LillyLippo has raised some very valid points, which you did not comment upon in your response to her. May I encourage a discussion on the following paragraphs:

    1. And how do you suppose all this will work? You say the drug dealers will go away, but this simply wont happen. They will instead switch to pushing the new legalised drugs onto those who cant get them through whatever legal mechanism is in operation. There will have to be some controls on the drugs even if they are offered for sale in the corner shop Im quite sure youd need to be over 18 with some form of ID to get hold of them. Those under 18 and without ID (i.e. the most vulnerable in our society), will still have to resort to criminals to get their fix. If they are only available in bonded out-of-town warehouses, with security checks, then you are introducing more barriers to supply that can and will be circumvented by criminals. And if the Govt does take tax from their sale, you can bet your bottom dollar they will set the taxes massively high to discourage use, with the result that people will still get it cheaper on the black market. So the criminals will still have a market, and will still push illegal, untaxed, unregulated, harmful or fake drugs.

    2.And what drugs will be legalised? All of them? Some of them? Those drugs that are not legalised will still be available from your friendly criminal dealer, who will continue to protect his market in the same way as he does today. If you want ALL drugs legalised, then you are supporting the wholesale selling of potentially deadly substances. What about drugs like Rohypnol? We all know the potential uses of this drug. What about hallucinogens such as LSD? What about dangerously addictive substances such as crystal meth, crack ,or heroin? How would you stop people combining drugs or synthesising their own from base substances? You simply couldnt.


    Let us move from the general pro and con argument and start discussing the real problems that will come with legalisation.

    ***********************************************
    60. At 11:36am on 03 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:
    LippyLippo #53.

    "You cant compare drugs to alcohol. They are not the same thing and the potential for accidental or intentional harm is so much greater with drugs than with alcohol."

    your apparent ignorance is mind-boggling'

    jr4412,

    I also think that many drugs are a lot more dangerous than alcohol- GHB, GBL, chrystal meth, kethamine, LSD. And I have seen how easy it is to overdose yourself with GHB. The difference between having a good time and starting to mumble, sweat profusely, and develop uncontrollable muscle jerks before finally passing out is measured in few millilitres and can happen in about 10-20 minutes. Although you could also drink too much alcohol at least you know that your would be relatively OK after 3-4 pints of lagger. And do not forget that GHB is a so-called date rape drug- slipped into a drink without the other person noticing is a very quick to render them defenceless and very vulnerable. When you propose legalisation of all drugs, have you thought that somebody might buy it legally and slip it into your own or your daughters drink?

    So before accusing somebody of mind-boggling ignorance please learn the facts yourself.

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  • 68. At 1:57pm on 03 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #63 livingFreeadvice

    There are a variety of reasons (which vary by substance) in a variety of countries.

    Cannabis prohibition in the US was largely due to the efforts of the aforementioned Harry Anslinger. There are a lot of rumours about the man to the effect that he had financial interests in seeing it banned. He certainly used moral panic and inflated claims about death, rape and murder to support his arguments and may have exploited the racism of the 1930s US too.

    It's certainly not clear that this was anything to do with well researched health concerns.

    For other substances, I don't know. Opium has a long history of addiction and misery in China and the west. Morphine and Heroin were sold freely in the US until the early 20th century, but it is clear that the selling of Opiate (and cocaine) based "health tonics" was causing fairly widespread addiction amongst the middle classes at the time (one of the reasons I'll never advocate heroin for sale at corner shops like fags and booze, but will always advocate help for those that fall into its clutches).

    It is clear to that at some point (probably a while before the various analog acts in the US that make substances that have similar effects to illegal substances also illegal) that all "drugs" were morally unacceptable and to be legislated against, based solely on their recreational use and not on any established pattern of harm.

    And I talk about the US a lot because the US was at the forefront of pushing through international agreements banning drugs. In some cases it made them conditions of trade. The US wasn't the only country that did believe in this cause, or course, but it was one of the major players.

    There's a whole wealth of history and knowledge out there on this subject, it makes interesting reading whatever your opinions are on the legal status of drugs going forward.

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  • 69. At 2:02pm on 03 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    Isenhorn #67.

    "Although you could also drink too much alcohol at least you know that your would be relatively OK after 3-4 pints of lagger."

    people die from alcohol poisoning, I think something like 15-20 under-age drinkers every year in the UK.

    "..GHB is a so-called date rape drug- slipped into a drink without the other person noticing is a very quick to render them defenceless and very vulnerable. When you propose legalisation of all drugs, have you thought that somebody might buy it legally and slip it into your own or your daughters drink?"

    that would be an assault, there's already legislation in place to deal with that; fact is, such assaults occur already even though the drug(s) in question are proscribed.

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  • 70. At 2:07pm on 03 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    Gothnet #68.

    adding to your answer to livingFreeadvice:

    "..but it is clear that the selling of Opiate (and cocaine) based "health tonics".."

    Coca-Cola was one such, until 1904 (1906?) cocaine was a key ingredient.

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  • 71. At 2:24pm on 03 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    51. At 09:10am on 03 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:
    "I am just giving my opinion to which I hope I am still entitled."

    Of course you are entitled - it is opinion such as yours, structured and responsible, that makes for good discussion. It does not matter that some may disagree - that is the point of discussion. Thank you for putting good arguments across.



    "...Of course decriminalisation will work for the people who smoke pot at home after work. However, what about the very different picture of drug taking on a Saturday night? That is when you find a lot less weed and a lot more other horrible stuff..."

    An excellent point, and something that I hope would be addressed by way of the education process. At the moment, drug use and the accepted ways to use, are driven by that environment, but you are on the mark with the fact that certain drugs should not be mixed with other drugs, and when it comes to a Saturday night, for example, people going out mixing Coke with Alcohol need to be educated that they are playing Russian Roullete with their liver. Dropping acid or taking E without adequate hydration (coke too for that matter) - ie drinking lots of water - is asking for trouble. All these points can be brought into the light - better coaching and education of people, rather than letting them listen to their peers or working by experimentation. I'm sure, as a medic, you have an opinion based on what you see, and that is all valid opinion.

    My approach is not to simply argue, because it is an opposite opinion, but to take what you say, and hope that those that make policy do the same thing, and see if there is a way to improve the outcome - ie, allow the use of certain drugs, at certain times, but prevent the type of O/D you describe.

    For instance, all of the drug industry would need to be separated. Scrap the class system (A,B,C) and treat each drug and their effects separately. We do this already.

    Alcohol is legal, to anyone aged 18 or over, to drink at on-licensed premises or in your own home. You cannot, however, but it from an off-license and consume it there (that is why it's called an off-license where as a pub is an on-license). For the record, I'm an ex-publican, ex-licensee, and so for the context of this discussion, an ex-drug-dealer (alcohol and tobacco). Tobacco is legal, but you cannot consume that on licensed premises - at least, not indoors. We deal with each separately.

    Laws can be written to accommodate the options.

    Example

    If cannabis was decriminalised, I'd like to see it being handled in much the same way as tobacco is today. It would be on sale wherever tobacco was sold. It would be a regulated and taxed product, not some old bits of skunk wrapped up in a bit of tesco carrier bag. The law would be very specific about where it could be consumed, much the same way as tobacco is regulated today. In other words, you would be able to consume cannabis anywhere where tobacco could be consumed now.

    Different rules would be applied to each drug, with a coverall option that if the venue owner (club, bar etc.,) makes a rule that drugs are not tolerated on the premises, then that venue is backed under law. If I smoke in a bar, I am subject to punishment - whatever my thoughts on that, I abide by it, because it doesn't prevent me smoking, just not in the bar.

    This is an area that needs structured thought applied - and I can only agree with you - the point here is not saturate the authorities with reasons to repeal the law before it is even passed, but to devise a proper, structured, responsible attitude towards drugs.

    EDUCATION







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  • 72. At 2:26pm on 03 Jul 2009, writingsonthewall wrote:

    This always comes down to the same old argument. Why are we allowed liberty in some areas (Tobbacco, Alchohol, Gambling) - and yet not in others (Illegal drugs)

    Who decides what can be covered under 'adult responsibilty' and which cannot?
    It's certainly not society deciding as the increase in Marajuana smoking proves (despite statistics it's extremely difficult to find anyone under the age of 30 who hasn't tried it)

    In my opinion I believe that the Government decides which drugs to allow and which one's not to based on the effects. They make drugs that excite, give pleasure or make you think illegal - and allow the drugs that make you dumb, depressed, compliant and easily manipulated.

    ....and of course money, if all the 'lifestyle drugs' were legalised tomorrow - the tobbacco and alcohol industries would die within months - and we all know who contributes large sums to the party political system....

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  • 73. At 2:38pm on 03 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    51. At 09:10am on 03 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:
    "P.S. How do you suggest keeping children off drugs when they are all legally sold? If you try to ban them, would not the dealers just switch to selling to youngster only or would not unscrupulous adults buy it for them from the legal outlets? I cannot help it but imagine a paedophile grooming young girls with a few doses of cocaine in his pocket and the police just standing idle as he has bought it legally from the shop."

    OK - now we're confusing decriminalising the substance and making all activity legal too. Not the case.

    If, as per my previous post, cannabis for example, were to be handled in the same way as tobacco, and restricted to 18 or over, that would go further to prevent under-agers getting hold of it than is currently the way. There are far more unscrupulous drug dealers than there are unscrupulous shopkeepers. I often get asked by kids, as I walk through the village, to go buy 10 Mayfair or Marlboro and I always refuse. The responsibility lies with society.

    More adults by cannabis than kids - for kids it would be opportunistic - why? because it is there! Put the sale into licensed tobacconists and the situation changes. Dealers would have lost their bread and butter - dealing to kids is not going to cut it - the demand couldn't sustain the market.

    As for a paedophile grooming your girls (or boys for that matter), making cocaine legal would not change anything there. Firstly, if a paedophile is molesting minors, then he/she isn't going to care whether cocaine is legal or not, and secondly, whether cocaine was used or not, he would still be breaking a very serious law - two in fact - molesting a minor and supplying them with drugs - the age law still applies, whether or not the drug is legal.

    Good questions, Isenhorn, all the same.


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  • 74. At 3:03pm on 03 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:

    Isenhorn

    I also think that many drugs are a lot more dangerous than alcohol- GHB, GBL, chrystal meth, kethamine, LSD. And I have seen how easy it is to overdose yourself with GHB. The difference between having a good time and starting to mumble, sweat profusely, and develop uncontrollable muscle jerks before finally passing out is measured in few millilitres and can happen in about 10-20 minutes. Although you could also drink too much alcohol at least you know that your would be relatively OK after 3-4 pints of lagger.



    Maybe we could do exactly the same thing that the pharmaceutical industry has been doing for many, many years and produce these in easy to use capsules which have a guaranteed stated dose in each one. They have proved to be more than capable of ensuring that each time only the exact minuscule amount of the drug is in each pill. You say the GBH is measured by the millilitre, well for years the pharmaceutical industry has been working with much smaller quantities.

    The only difference is the lager you say about is sold in standard known quantities (pints) and each brand is a set strength to make it easy to judge how much you are taking. So with awareness and education about alcohol you are able to say that 3-4 pints will be not spoil your personal evening. If you had no knowledge about alcohol then you would not know until after drinking whether a pint of neat vodka or a pint of cheap lager is the safer one to drink.

    Whereas with the GBH etc you are buying something of an unknown quantity, with an unknown strength and no idea if it contains anything more harmful (but cheaper thus increasing the bulk) than the drug you think you are buying. Because of this you get the problems of people overdosing by mistake, having a bad time etc.

    Is it not possible to think about the concept, or accept the idea that most of the overdoses and health problems are not deliberate on the part of the drug user, but due to the unknown strength, purity, quality and other contents in the drug. Which is all directly related to the drugs being kept illegal. This has been proved by prohibition in the USA so not just guesswork.

    Personally I feel that the Government is responsible for the majority of drug deaths due to fact that they are produced without any controls.

    The War on Drugs has been going for over 70 years. How many times do you keep trying the same response and expect to get a different answer before admitting that it's not working and one of the main people profiting (and very, very big profit at that. One of the 3rd largest business in the USA worth more than the wheat/grain industry) are the drug gangs and all the lobbyists who are taking their drug money to keep pushing for these drugs to remain illegal and the drug gangs to keep their vast financial empire.

    forgottenukcitizen

    I fear you are right, but it really annoys me to see the complete blindness of failed drugs policies that benefits the criminals being used time and time again. It could almost be supported in the government by the drug gangs themselves. Who else has such a vast fortune and income that relies solely on these drugs remaining illegal. Who else benefits from being able to sell unknown drugs to children. Who else benefits when the police are so busy trying to arrest every single person on the street that they cannot concentrate on people selling to children. Who else has the financial backing to afford to keep this insanity going. Here's a few other industries that could be involved. Weapon manufactures, fuel companies, pharmaceutical companies of the top of my head

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  • 75. At 3:07pm on 03 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    63. At 12:28pm on 03 Jul 2009, livingFreeadvice wrote:
    "In addition, addiction to alcohol has been described as an illness that affects some people just like diabetes affects some people. [One theory.] So some individuals can be classified as heavy drinkers but never experience withdrawal symptoms."

    Correct - I've worked with addicts - workaholics, chocoholics, alcoholics, tobaccoholics and heroinolics - if there is such a word. What I've found, and maybe Isenhorn or some other medically qualified person here could support or otherwise correct what I'm saying, but over the years, you spot different types of people. Some people are more likely to develop an addiction, others might be curious and can leave it there. In the rehab world, where drug (inc Alcohol) addictions are treated, there is a term 'addictive personality' banded around - people who are more likely to become addicted than others.

    Example, I like a drink, but am not an alcoholic. I can leave it during the week while I'm at work, don't wake up with DTs, don't crave the effect, but look forward to Friday / Saturday when I can have a jar or three. I consider myself educated. Nothing of any great academic standard - GCE O Level (to anyone under 40 that will be GCSE I think), but I know my limits and can live with them.
    Also, I like a cigarette. I roll my own, and have found that I can reduce my spending from £42.00 per week on my favourite brand, to around £10.00 per week. I have one when I feel like it - no doubt there is a craving there - a psychological addiction.
    I like a bit of weed once in a while, I'll get it when I want to, smoke only at home (not during my normal cigarette breaks at work), and generally prefer that to a beer, during the week. I don't mix, because I know that, irrespective of the individual health problems associated with each drug, they are multiplied when mixed in certain ways.

    EDUCATION

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  • 76. At 3:08pm on 03 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #67 Isenhorn

    And LippyLippo ignores or fails to address anything that is addressed at him. I have addressed some of the points he made in other posts.

    1 - How do I suppose it would work?

    That's a debate that should be undertaken in public. My proposal would be to regulate cannabis, ecstasy and other relatively low-harm substances in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco, though possibly limiting the chemical drugs (not cannabis) to retail from pharmacies.

    As for the fear-mongering about drug dealers moving on to selling to children - I don't believe it for a second. Firstly because they don't do it now with booze and secondly becauase children don't have much money.

    2 - What should be legalised

    This is another interesting question. I would find it difficult to support full legalisation of heroin, meth or crack and would instead have them decriminalised and available on prescription. The Swiss have a very good model here and have turned heroin into something desperately unfashionable and seen as an old person's addiction that makes them a client of their local hospital.

    It's interesting that you mention LSD as it in itself is very safe and non-addictive, though of course it has strong and relatively lengthy (8-12 hours) effects on people's perception.

    Ketamine is also thought to be comparatively safe, though could be made safer by proper education and advice on the risks of using it.

    As for Rohypnol and GHB - you may be interested to know that (as of last I heard a report, a year or so back) there was not a single case of these drugs being used for date-rape, and most or all of the suspected cases came down to alcohol, either people being spiked or simply drinking far too much.

    People could already slip something in your daughter's drink, but it's far more likely that they'll either slip more drink in there or just let her drink herself into a stupor.

    Yes, you heard me right, most date-rape drugs are a myth and alcohol is the real demon.

    As for this question -

    "How would you stop people combining drugs or synthesising their own from base substances? You simply couldnt."

    Why is that at all relevant?
    Why would people bother synthesizing their own? There's no thriving moonshine market is there?

    And this little gem -

    "So before accusing somebody of mind-boggling ignorance please learn the facts yourself."

    Is very special. Sorry, but lumping all drugs into a single category and saying that that category can't even be compared to alcohol IS staggeringly ignorant.

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  • 77. At 3:21pm on 03 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    67. At 1:46pm on 03 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:
    "...I also think that many drugs are a lot more dangerous than alcohol- GHB, GBL, chrystal meth, kethamine, LSD..."

    Exactly - and which is why all drugs need to be dealt with separately, not just bundled under the 'one drug kills all' banner.

    "...at least you know that your would be relatively OK after 3-4 pints..."

    Because it is a regulated industry - the strength is written on the bottle, we are educated to know how much of it we can take before we throw up, collapse or otherwise turn into a Saturday night jibbering wreck and will have to phone you to come get us :-)

    "...When you propose legalisation of all drugs, have you thought that somebody might buy it legally and slip it into your own or your daughters drink?..."

    Again, we need to separate substance from action. No one is advocating the mass use of rohypnol. Yes, by making a drug legal would lead one to suppose it is therefore more available, however, people who use drugs in an immoral way will do so whether or not the substance is legal. The drug is their means to their very immoral ends. If anyone was to slip any drug into anyones drink, it would be illegal, just as it is today.

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  • 78. At 3:27pm on 03 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    SHLA2UK,

    As usual, the thruth is somewhere in the middle. Outright ban does not work, outright legalisation might not work. Both need to be combined to find a workable alternative.

    I agree that with cannabis legalisation is relatively easy- smoking it is visible and thus easy to regulate. It will not be allowed anywhere where there are other people, the same way as tobacco.

    More difficult is the case with the harder drugs. The following points could be taken into account:
    1. Decrmiminalise and offer free supply of safe drugs for hardcore drug addicts, together with workable program to get them off of the drug (that is no brainer)

    2. Legalising cannabis will lead to a drop in expenses required to combat it. The money saved must be spent on education programs and policing aimed at discouraging youngsters to turn to drugs and preventing drugs being sold to youngsters (the same as with tobacco and alcohol, but hopefully more effective)

    3. The difficult part- what to do with the 'social drugs'? Possible options:
    3.1. Legalise, use the money saved for robuts policing of drug dealers supplying addictive drugs and/or to youths.

    This might not work as people would still use substances that are dangerous and might experiment/mix/ overdose different drugs with undesirable effects.

    3.2. This is long shot but here it is- change current legislation about drug research and encourage development of new recreational drugs, with proven safety. Once that is available people will have a safe alternative to using horse-tranquilisers (kethamine)or paint-removers (GBL>GHB). The money from the taxation can be spent on enforcing control and ban on other more harmfull drugs.

    The last option I believe might be the best one. With a proper research a recreational drug can be produced that is a lot better than the currently available. Compare for example the fact that nowadays people do not drink denatured alcohol as they used to, since there is a safer, cheaper alternative. The same can be done with drugs. This is something that I would subscribe to, since I really cannot agree to kethamine or other rubbish being freely available to anyone. At least the money earned from taxation will be from something that is not killing anyone, which would account for the 'moral factor'.

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  • 79. At 3:38pm on 03 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    74. At 3:03pm on 03 Jul 2009, Jaknet wrote:
    "...Personally I feel that the Government is responsible for the majority of drug deaths due to fact that they are produced without any controls..."

    Jaknet - I've never thought of it that way, but I cannot disagree. I'd replace Government with State - cos the Govt changes - but yes, the State is responsible by way of neglect to protect its citizens.

    To completely ignore what is going on, and just to say, 'we told you not to do it' when they are in full knowledge that it goes on (their stats), makes them culpable, IMHO.

    As a landlord, if I told my tenants that playing with a dodgy light switch was dangerous, don't do it, rather than fixing the dodgy light switch so that they couldn't hurt themselves, who would be to blame if my tenant electrocuted themselves? Me, of course.

    Govt, stop pandering to international pressure, the US et al, and start listening to your own people.

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  • 80. At 3:40pm on 03 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #78 Isenhorn

    Ketamine needs more research.

    It's still thought of as very safe by the medical establishment and is used on children and the elderly where other anaesthetics are not thought safe or suitable. It's taken recreationally because at sub-anaesthetic doses it produces psychoactive effects. It's not just a horse tranquilliser, and I don't think it fits into the same category as the other "rubbish" you've mentioned like crystal meth - a highly addictive substance that has been proven to be harmful.

    However nobody really knows (like with a lot of these things) the long term effects of repeat exposure on the body or the brain.

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  • 81. At 3:48pm on 03 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #78 Isenhorn

    Of course my last post on ketamine might be considered presumptuous by someone that professes to be a health professional...

    I'd also say that whilst research on safer drugs is a very noble goal, that some of the banned drugs are really quite safe, especially if they can be guaranteed to be what they say they are, not full of poisonous impurities and of a known quantity.

    So that even before your "safe" replacements could be developed, harm can be reduced by legalisation and regulation of things like MDMA.

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  • 82. At 3:50pm on 03 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:

    #74 Jaknet,

    and
    #76 Gothnet,

    Check my response #78- I think we can agree on several points! It is not too difficult after all- a few days bolgging and we have sorted out the drug problems this country is facing! :-)

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  • 83. At 4:00pm on 03 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #82 Isenhorn

    I think it's just one of those issues where everyone comes in with a strong presupposition of their own opinion and presumes to know what the "other side" thinks too. When you actually drill down most people are pretty sensible and realistic about the whole thing. Most people...

    From my perspective it's a terrible shame that the whole issue has been clouded by years of snap judgements and suppression of any honest debate at a governmental level, because that's almost made ignoring the arguments and denouncing "drugs" regardless into a matter of honour. I think it's the reckless disregard of evidence when making laws that's criminal :)

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  • 84. At 4:25pm on 03 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    78. At 3:27pm on 03 Jul 2009, Isenhorn wrote:
    "...and encourage development of new recreational drugs, with proven safety..."

    Thanks for that input - I like the way you're thinking, but before the 'moral' righteousness mob grab my throat and think of me as a go happy junkie who just wants to get off his face at every opportunity - oh how wrong you can be - let me tell you why I like what you say.

    The extract I've quoted - is exactly how MDMA came about. MDMA is the compound that is used in Ecstasy, is it not? It's a chemical compound. Not all drugs are chemically manufactured, albeit that it is a chemical reaction, in the brain, that causes the high.

    "...1. Decrmiminalise and offer free supply of safe drugs for hardcore drug addicts, together with workable program to get them off of the drug (that is no brainer)..."

    I'd say that moving onto the harder 'most addictive' substances, 'Decriminalise and regulate supply of good quality pharmaceutical grade drugs, where addicts must still pay for the drug, but know it is safe (and cheaper than the street dealer) with an additional caveat that users will get free support and treatment to get clean - there are very good opiate blockers available now - Buprenorphine for one (Subutex) which although is an addictive drug itself, is used to ween opiate addicts off, and by reducing the dose, gradually and painlessly 'cures' the opiate addiction. It addresses both the psychological and physical addiction.

    "...2. Legalising cannabis will lead to a drop in expenses required to combat it. The money saved must be spent on education programs and policing aimed at discouraging youngsters to turn to drugs and preventing drugs being sold to youngsters (the same as with tobacco and alcohol, but hopefully more effective)..."

    We're almost on the same page now - I'd re-word it a bit like this though - 'decriminalisation of cannabis would lead to a drop in resources needed to police it. Revenue and taxation raised by the legitimate production and retail of the drug could then be diverted into social education (proper education, not the usual govt 'dissuasion') programs. Policing would be the responsibility of society with legal backing, therefore releasing valuable police time to dealing with more pressing social or moreso, criminal issues.

    No, what I like about what you've said is that we are moving forward. You are purporting ideas - suggestions, not just NO NO NO. Excellent.

    Like your option 3. You mention GLB / GHB a lot, as well as Ketamine. These drugs are chemically produced, as far as I know. Correct? Most other drugs we're talking about are natural. It is for reasons like this that the subject can be so messy, and probably why the governments of the world devised the Class system (drug class not social class - we all know that drugs transcend all social classes). Before anyone jumps on me, I know Crack is not natural and neither is injecting heroin, but the plant extract is what I'm talking about.

    Anyway, I digress.

    From the perspective of two people who began this discussion disagreeing, we are now in a position that we have agreed on the first point - at least, we've managed to come to a middle ground about one subject - the decriminalisation or legalisation of cannabis.

    It is for the very complexities of the issues being discussed here that the whole subject must be separated. Each drug must be dealt with, in law, on its own individual merit.

    All drugs should be decriminalised. The benefits are multi-faceted, and depend very much on the drug concerned, but then, with the problem being decriminalised, we can openly discuss the required solutions for each and every issue, without being stigmatised for even mentioning the subject in the first place.

    Decriminalisation is the first step. That in itself will not change anything, but it will pave the way for debate and education and social change.








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  • 85. At 4:29pm on 03 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    LippyLippo wrote:
    "Wow! I am amazed at the reaction from some of the posters on here. I simply cant believe that anyone would WANT people to take currently illegal drugs. Why?"


    I think it is agreed that none of us want children to take any drugs, legal or otherwise, unless there is a specific medical reason for doing so.

    As far as adults are concerned, it is everyone's choice as to what they decide to put into their bodies for recreational purposes.
    Alcohol has a very negative effect on me so I do not use alcohol, this doesn't mean I think other people shouldn't use it or shouldn't have the right to use it.
    It's their body & their life so, in my opinion, it's their choice & their responsibility.
    The same is true for other recreational drugs.

    It's not a case of wanting people to do drugs, it's a case that people are doing drugs and we just want to make sure that they do it in a way that reduces the harm to them and society.

    Prohibition has been proven to cause lots of problems for both individuals and society, we just want a different and better way of dealing with the problems.

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  • 86. At 4:34pm on 03 Jul 2009, U14058031 wrote:

    @ Gothnet

    You brilliantly demolish the unfounded and ignorant views of LippyLippo - particularly with regards to the entirely circular logic that they use to 'support' their position.

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  • 87. At 4:46pm on 03 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #82 Isenhorn

    It's just a shame that we don't run the place or we could actually change something. I think that's the worst bit about it all, the frustration.

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  • 88. At 5:02pm on 03 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    For Mark Easton
    This blog, and the previous 'give drug users a break' blog, have brought a great cross-section of opinion to the fore, into a semi-public debate-like arena.

    What would be a great next step, would be to open this up to a wider audience. I've said all through these two blogs that education is the key. Whilst it is not the BBCs place to educate, it is quite proper for the BBC to host a debate on the subject, whether that be on the Radio, TV or via an internet forum or blog. The wider the reach, the better, though, and there are many people out there in our cities and countryside that would have valid opinion to put forward but are maybe unaware of this discussion.

    How about you widen the footprint of debate and step this up a notch. Of course, on such a hot topic and one that is still, albeit just, under the legal radar, anonymity may be needed to prevent retribution, but it could be a good heated debate that would get people talking, or shouting, or even maybe, finding resolution in a way our Government seem unable.

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  • 89. At 6:18pm on 03 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    53. At 10:39am on 03 Jul 2009, LippyLippo wrote:
    "...Other than this, the single and only reason for using is to alter your state of mind to an extent that would make you largely unfit for normal functional life in the same way that excess alcohol does..."

    LippyLippo - you make very broad statements with a lot of conviction. You seem to be speaking from experience, or maybe from some moral high-ground. Either that, or you enjoy telling people what they are, why they are and what they should or shouldn't do.

    You start off ok - the only reaeson for using is to alter your state of mind - that is true. Fear is a state of mind. Confidence is a state of mind. Wanting to relax after a stressful day, to me, is a damn good reason to want to alter my state of mind. Then you say, to the extent that would make you largely unfit for normal functional life in the same way that excess alcohol does - yes, if it were true, but you're simply spouting rhetoric and gossip.

    Firstly, can I ask that broad statements about DRUGS are a little more specific in their application. What drugs exactly, are you talking about when you say I want to change my state of mind to the extent that excessive drinking would cause. If I wanted to get so drunk that I'd be incapable of having rational or useful conversation, I would do that, but in the main, I don't. A little bit of weed does not make me an irrational person, nor does it make me a useless waste of skin (I am making assumptions of how you view us - not pleasant eh).

    To make it clear - the majority of people on this blog that are in favour of decriminalisation, (not legalisation, per se, not putting herion ampules on sale next to the Radio Times, not pushing usage figures into the stratosphere, but a first step to proper control and regulation), are not junkies, not IV users, not wasting tax-payers money, but are honest, upstanding, morally correct, ethically balanced, studious and hard-working members of our community, and if they want to supplement their hard-working lives by smoking a bit of cannabis, that does not make them raging alcoholics. Please, stop bundling everything you dislike under 'DRUGS'

    "...And its not a great idea to swill umpteen cans of high-caffeine drinks either. The use of these substances is tolerated, but not actively promoted..."

    I have one thing (well two words) to say - Red Bull

    "...You cant compare drugs to alcohol. They are not the same thing and the potential for accidental or intentional harm is so much greater with drugs than with alcohol..."

    I'm an ex-licensee. Let me say, and for the majority they'll realise this, but LippyLippo - they ARE the same thing. Alcohol is based on Ethynol - a mind altering substance. There are receptors in the brain, that are activated by Ethynol, and it is these receptors that produce the Euphoric feeling of a high - most people call it 'getting a bit squiffy', a pre-cursor to getting drunk. Some people have the unfortunate condition that those receptors won't relax after the alcohol as diminished, and they crave more stimulant. That is alcoholism. There is no big black monster hiding under your bed, it's a simple fact of a balance of chemicals in the brain. The same is true for heroin addicts. Exactly the same.

    Did you know - a wee fact here - that there are no recorded cases of death from withdrawal of any illegal substance. The fact that most of them don't have addictive qualities is part of that, but even heroin has no recorded cases of death by sudden withdrawal. Guess which substance has the highest recorded rate of death from sudden withdrawal.

    ALCOHOL

    "...If you want ALL drugs legalised, then you are supporting the wholesale selling of potentially deadly substances..."

    Oh no we're not. What is being suggested is that drugs are DECRIMINALISED - the substance should not be illegal. It is the use of the substance that should be regulated, and each substance will be subject to a whole new set of licensing rules and regulation.

    No - Heroin and the likes are not being talked into the school curriculum - we're trying to balance sensible legislation with the proper means to protect all our people, including children.

    and finally "...We cannot and must not be led by these selfish people..."

    Who is 'we' and 'they'? What are the proportions of society that you think are on the moral left and right of your argument. We are all part of society, moreso, a product of it. I am not a morally deficient reject, who only wants to be able to get his 'fix' at the corner shop before wasting the rest of my life on a park bench. Sorry to burst your bubble. You not only appear to bundle all drugs into the same basket, but you put all those that you deem as drug users into that same pot too (no pun intended). Seriously, drop the attitude, learn something about the subject, learn something about the real world and make a productive input to the whole matter.

    It's a subject bigger than you or I, or all of us on this blog, but a subject that with rational debate and discussion can bring sensible solutions to this massive problem.

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  • 90. At 11:10pm on 03 Jul 2009, annanan wrote:

    I started smoking tobacco in 1967 , when I accepted a ciggy of my boyfriend . I was crazy in love and would have done anything to make him sure we were soulmates .But ciggys were thought safe , in fact helped you to concentrate on your studies and deal with stress , then .
    I have been addicted ever since . I have ruined my health . I have spent 10's of thousands of pounds .I have endured misery giving up , time and time again . When I give up , temptation calls me back - all I have to do is walk a few yards to the shop and the medusa has me back in its clutches .
    There are drunk teenagers outside my home now , ugly bawling faces stained with vomit , making total idiots of themselves .
    Why add to the degredation and misery of the human race ? Why waste money on this rubbish , when people starve ?
    Ban the lot . Tobacco , alchohol , drugs .
    All they do is numb us into inanely accepting our lot as pawns , proles , serfs instead of doing something with our talents .

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  • 91. At 11:53pm on 03 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    annanan #90.

    "I started smoking tobacco in 1967 ... I have been addicted ever since ... temptation calls me back ... the medusa has me back in its clutches.

    regrettable, yes, for you as an individual.

    "Why add to the degredation and misery of the human race ? Why waste money on this rubbish , when people starve ?"

    good questions. you could (should?) perhaps ask those of one of the many Iraqi and Afghan children mutilated as a result of our weapons technology, or starving Africans whose economies were destroyed by our "interests".

    "All they do is numb us into inanely accepting our lot as pawns , proles , serfs instead of doing something with our talents ."

    again, perhaps that is your personal experience. but what about people like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, or John Lennon, or Oscar Wilde, and many others? they all took drugs and produced worthwhile legacies.

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  • 92. At 03:23am on 04 Jul 2009, NETCRUSHER wrote:

    I do not understand why the issue of MDMA regulation has not really been mentioned. British scientists made the claim that mdma is at a low 18th spot in contast to alcohol at 5th spot in regards to harm. It was used by theripists when it was legal with some very good positive ramifications. It seems to term esctacy has given the drug a bad name in most of the mainstream media because of the fact that anything can be put in an esctacy tablet and thus it can get a bad name. In moderation and at right dosage levels this can be a purely magical and beneficial experiance as it makes you see the best of yourself and the world. Rather then violence and slurred speaking - you can think with total clarity and enjoy the music on a new level. Even with the fact that it is illegal the deaths have been so miminal that we need to look into regulating this amazing drug.... MDMA

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  • 93. At 10:56am on 04 Jul 2009, livingFreeadvice wrote:


    Why do people want to take drugs?
    Whilst others get by on legal hugs
    What factor is missing?
    Perhaps no love or lousy kissing
    No point spending a fortune shooting
    If you have to resort to looting
    To support an addictive habit
    Personalities change from gentle to crabbit
    Friends and family take second place
    Drugs priority lacks daily grace
    Why let it in to torment and control
    Leaves you stuck in a jet black hole
    After the initial rush, you have to plan
    Next fix wherever, however you can
    It is a game of Russian roulette
    Never know just what you might get
    Perhaps life is just so empty and boring
    Lets fight this demon give him a goring
    Search for the beauty in this world of yours
    Take a closer look-see the intricate contours
    It will be a serious battle
    Better than herded like cattle
    You will harvest the fruits
    Victory will be yours with healthier pursuits.
























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  • 94. At 11:19am on 04 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #93 livingFreeadvice

    Your trite little "poem" there is as useless as any other statement on here that simply uses the word "drugs" to describe a wide variety of differrent things.

    Maybe it describes heroin, it sure as hell has no bearing on cannabis or the many other non-(or low-) addictive substances.

    People like to take drugs because they feel good. The vast majority do not get into the sort of trouble your text describes. The implication that people use drugs because they have nobody to love them is facile, patronising and quite offensive.

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  • 95. At 12:31pm on 04 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    i recieved an email off 10.gov.uk

    'Thank you for your e-petition advocating the legalisation of cannabis in the UK.

    The Government has no intention of legalising cannabis. In response to the Home Affairs Committee report The Governments Drugs Policy: Is It Working? (2002), the Government stated that We do not accept that legalisation and regulation is now, or will be in the future, an acceptable response to the presence of drugs and that includes cannabis.

    Cannabis is a controlled, illicit drug for good reasons. It has a number of acute and chronic health effects and prolonged use can induce dependence. Most cannabis is smoked and smoking, in any form, is dangerous. Even the occasional use of cannabis can pose significant dangers for people with mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, and particular efforts need to be made to encourage abstinence in such individuals.

    The Government considers that it makes sense, on health grounds, for cannabis to remain a controlled drug whose unauthorised production, supply and possession are, and will remain, illegal.

    The Government will continue to make it clear that cannabis is illegal and can cause serious and sometimes considerable harm to those who use it, as well as great distress to their families and friends. Through campaigns such as FRANK, we will continue to make the public aware of the health harms associated with cannabis use and specifically the risks to mental health. The Governments aim is to ensure that people and young people in particular are well aware of all the risks.'

    lots of love G Brown.

    it seems pointless us having this debate when our Gov. still cling on to the same old outdated moral based hypocritical argument. We obviously are not as civilised as our European brothers and sisters and it appears our Gov. still is a police state and not a democracy. It makes you sick, politicians can swindle us out of thousands and not be called a criminal but you get caught smoking a spliff and god help you...

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  • 96. At 1:28pm on 04 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    bansis #95.

    "lots of love G Brown."

    is that really what they signed?? perhaps they're "loved up" on E's??

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  • 97. At 3:43pm on 04 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    jr4412, lol unfortunately Gordon didn't sign my e-mail, but I'm sure the sentiments were there in his thoughts.

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  • 98. At 6:55pm on 04 Jul 2009, livingFreeadvice wrote:

    Gothnet

    You are quite right. I was just expressing the hopelessness of heroin addiction and all the beautiful people who are caught in the clutches of this drug; like the Marias in Mark Eastons introductory article.
    I fully appreciate various drugs including alcohol have different chemical components and effects on the human body.




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  • 99. At 00:37am on 05 Jul 2009, IRcutekitten wrote:

    "It has a number of acute and chronic health effects... Through campaigns such as FRANK, we will continue to make the public aware of the health harms associated with cannabis use and specifically the risks to mental health."

    WARNING: CONSUMING THIS DRUG MAY GIVE YOU THE MUNCHIES.
    It may make you giggle, and talk total nonsense.
    It may make you feel chilled out, relaxed and happy. (god forbid!)
    It may eventually lead to psychosis in some small minority of people... possibly... well, maybe... we're not entirely sure just yet.

    Yeh. Tons of "acute and chronic health effects" there.

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  • 100. At 08:39am on 05 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    IRcutekitten, the funny thing is the biggest health danger from smoking dope probably comes from the legal drug u roll it up with. The one they make billions off each year and kills about 100k people in the UK, they must think we are idiots.

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  • 101. At 01:56am on 06 Jul 2009, 68huey wrote:

    As to this War on Drugs, and where it all comes from, I would like to suggest a book to this community entitled, "It's nobody's business if you do", by Peter McWilliams. He details how all of the laws on the books in the U.S. that involve no harm to other people, were at the instigation of the Churches or powerful corporate interests. They don't say in this country we have the best government that money can buy for nothing. I would use the example of cannibus. The two Industrialists that stood to loose from Hemp were Randolph Hurst, the newspaper magnate, who didn't want competition to his paper manufacturing used in newsprint. And second Pierre DuPont who didn't want competition to his synthetic rope from hemp. They spent a fortune to demonize cannibus.

    As for cocaine and heroin, the U.S Government has been a transporter from countries that produce these products, in return for favors, usually use of military basing, or access to raw materials or finished goods for favored large corporations. During the Viet Nam war, the CIA were transporting heroin out of the Iron Triangle. During the Contra war in Nicaragua, the CIA were transporting cocaine out of Columbia, selling it and using the funds, illegally, as the congress had past laws to prohibit funding the Contras, and running the money through Panama, whose President was selected by the U.S. Government early in his career as an operative of the CIA, namely Manuel Noriga. Who is currently in Maximum Security Prison in the U.S.

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  • 102. At 08:55am on 06 Jul 2009, jmfarrugia wrote:

    I think those of us who are not drug users should ask ourselves one question! Why don't I use drugs? Is it because it is illegal or is it because I know that drugs are not good for me? I reckon most of us would associate with the second reason!

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  • 103. At 12:10pm on 06 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    jmfarrugia 'I reckon most of us would associate with the second reason!'It would be nice if people thought like this but we don't. Many of those who choose not too take illegal drugs take drugs like nicotine which has been proven time and time again to be very dangerous and extremely addictive. The previous post probably isn't too far from the truth.

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  • 104. At 12:35pm on 06 Jul 2009, Joe Soap wrote:

    I had a friend in Portugal who was a heroin addict. After the decriminalisation he received help instead of harrassment and is now drug free.

    Clearly the policy has worked for him.

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  • 105. At 1:15pm on 06 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    bansis wrote:
    "IRcutekitten, the funny thing is the biggest health danger from smoking dope probably comes from the legal drug u roll it up with. The one they make billions off each year and kills about 100k people in the UK, they must think we are idiots."


    Probably true a few years ago, these days the biggest danger comes from glass.
    Unscrupulous dealers are now grinding glass down and sprinkling it over "skunk" to give it the appearance of having lots of crystals on it (and therefore being more potent).

    Smoking ground up glass causes it to re-crystallise inside the smokers lungs, over time these crystals will grow and destroy the smokers lungs from the inside out.

    Yet another problem caused by Prohibition !

    For those smoking resin the dangers have always been the same, dealers re-press the resin with plastic, henna and other materials to bulk it out. The dangers of smoking plastic and other toxic or carcinogenic materials are obvious to all.

    Youve got to hand it to the government, they really know how to protect the countries citizens.

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  • 106. At 1:52pm on 06 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    105. At 1:15pm on 06 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:
    "...Unscrupulous dealers are now grinding glass down and sprinkling it over "skunk" to give it the appearance of having lots of crystals on it..."

    This is a very potent warning, and I can concur with what Secretariat says above - it has been happening a lot in the past 8 - 10 months so far as I know, probably longer. Other things used are sand (fine grain) which has a similar effect to glass - same source mineral.

    An example of another 'risk' that would be minimised if govt allowed the proper production and regulation of Cannabis

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  • 107. At 4:22pm on 06 Jul 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    To all the pro-legals frothing with rage at my posts, how about we look at some fundamentals? Various posters have stated that legalisation of drugs is necessary to reduce the involvement of criminals. Well, if youre worried about criminals benefiting from drugs you could help a lot by simply not taking them. I understand that they make you feel nice, but is it really worth the price we all have to pay? Many respondents talk about freedom, but surely this doesnt come through chaining yourself to an addictive habit that, one day, youll dearly wish you had never started. I can understand changes to the law for certain causes I can even understand breaking the law if you feel that your cause is particularly worthy and the law needs changing, but can you honestly say that changing the law so people can get high more easily is really necessary?

    As for the criminality, I hate to state the obvious but YOU create the market and YOU are responsible for the criminal networks and the misery they bring. Stop taking the drugs. Stop giving these people your money. You dont live on little islands what you do affects those around you, not just yourself. These hardened criminals making a fortune selling drugs, wont simply shut up shop and toddle off quietly to flip burgers on minimum wage the moment drugs are legalised. They will simply look for other markets selling drugs to those who for whatever reason cant get drugs via whatever legal mechanism exists. All the time there is a market this will happen. So we should aim to eliminate the market itself, not enlarge it by allowing people access to even more drugs. The Government tried this with alcohol. Let pubs stay open 24 hrs and well all magically drink less, or become more European in our drinking habits. That worked a treat didnt it?

    Next. Im restricting your personal freedoms. There are many types of freedom, and we are lucky to live in a country where we are relatively free to do as we wish and go where we like within reason. You can drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, eat fast food or take caffeine if you want extra stimulus. This not enough for you? I can understand the poor souls whose lives have been messed up by violence or abuse turning to drugs its the functional, casual, middle-class users that really get my goat. This is the craven section of society who want something a bit naughty, and in their greed fail to see the damage they cause to themselves and those around them. You have access to everything that comes with living in a modern, first-world country, and you still want more? You want freedom to wreck your senses without dirtying your hands dealing with a criminal empire that you create and you feed. Do you even know how spoilt this sounds? Can you not stand back and appreciate what we have, without whining that there arent enough ways to ruin yourselves?

    The next fundamental point is that there are too many negatives to taking currently illegal drugs in a recreational sense, and virtually no positives. A few messed-up poets doesnt really count. Drugs are addictive, both physiologically and psychologically. They alter your normal thinking and behaviour patterns. They are easy to over-use and abuse. Many companies routinely test for drugs and sack or detox those who are found to have taken them. They do very little real good, and cause masses of real harm. On the positive side er they make you feel nice. Anything else? Maybe someone can help me out here.

    Its a shame that the Government of Portugal has bought into the spurious logic that is spouted by drug users in order to justify what they do. The pro-legals always start from the standpoint that people are going to do them anyway, so why not just let them? Great! Next, well legalise arson for the benefit of those who like setting buildings on fire. Just because alcohol is legal and tobacco is legal does not mean other substances should be as well. Youve got to draw a line somewhere.

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  • 108. At 6:09pm on 06 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    107. At 4:22pm on 06 Jul 2009, LippyLippo wrote:
    "...As for the criminality, I hate to state the obvious but YOU create the market and YOU are responsible for the criminal networks and the misery they bring..."
    Actually, there was a legal supply or at least, a less 'illegal' supply of most of what we classify as 'illegal' drugs, up until the 1940s or 1950s (in the UK). What changed was that an element of society found an opportunity, and by taking that opportunity to its logical end, became criminals. They are criminals because the substance is illegal.

    Admittedly, there is a dirty side, and quite frankly, I agree that the higher up the chain you look, the worse it gets, but that is a victim of the greed - an ugly human trait - brought on by the fact that there is little to no regulation of even Cannabis, let alone the other stuff I could mention. They're driven by greed because they can charge pretty much what they want, and the fact that they get so rich on it shows that there is a huge demand.

    This is all chicken and egg, but I still do not agree that ignoring the problem will make it go away.

    "...Drugs are addictive, both physiologically and psychologically..."
    Not all of them, they aren't. DRUGS are not just DRUGS are not just DRUGS. Deal with each on it's own merit.

    "...On the positive side er they make you feel nice..."
    and what is wrong with that. I'm not religious, so I don't believe in sufferance - I believe in 'if it makes you happy, then a little, in moderation, is a good thing'

    It might surprise you, but I have a great interest in drug-use rehabilitation. I support the idea that we need to address a growing problem related to drugs, their supply, acquisition and use, and also their image, in this and other countries. I'm a great supporter of people that have become addicted, for whatever reason, to help that person discover a way back. I don't view addiction as dirty, or as something to be ashamed of, but as a sign that something, somewhere, in a persons life, has gone wrong, but to demonise drugs is no way to bring help to people. A person is no lesser worthy of help because they have become embroiled in a life of hard-drugs. For some, it is the only path they know.

    It is for these people that I would like to see the likes of heroin decriminalised. For their benefit to enable them stand proud as real people again, to give them some self-esteem, no longer part of the criminal fraternity. That would be a huge boost to enable many of those stuck in this rut, to approach people for help. The way it is today, people are afraid to ask for help BECAUSE it is illegal. BECAUSE of the stigma attached to it, BECAUSE even the NHS are obliged to take the particulars of any addict who approaches them for help, and pass that information to the Home Office. We are not helping people by demonising them.

    Decriminalisation of Heroin (I'm specifying that in the context of what I've written above) would provide an opening for support networks to be more visible, help addicts off of street gear, begin their withdrawal properly, and medically supervised, without any recrimination toward the user.

    On the subject of other substances, each would need individual consideration, but to go the total opposite end of the scale, Cannabis is not as addictive as either alcohol or tobacco. There are cases of paranoid psychosis associated with Cannabis, but again, they are on the increase BECAUSE of the illegal status of the plant that it is derived from. It is being bred stronger, hybrid versions, manipulated to produce a strong THC content (the analgesic element). The illegal production of the Cannabis plant means that unscrupulous growers, unregulated and out of control, are able to make stronger plants, year on year, crop on crop almost. That is dangerous. Very dangerous. Regulation would help standardise the crop, allow for strength monitoring and reporting, and much like alcohol and tobacco today, would have health warnings posted on packaging along with strength warnings (like the ABV or tar / nicotine content).

    I realise that the legalisation of all drugs would be futile - reckless even, without proper monitoring and regulation to replace a one-off law that neither protects the innocent nor helps those that are trapped by it. Decriminalisation is an option, however, to remove the stigma associated with drug use, to help those that need it most, and allow us to deal with the whole subject of drug use, abuse and addiction in a much more adult way.

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  • 109. At 6:16pm on 06 Jul 2009, mmutom wrote:

    I think the Government of Portugal has done a needed thing. There is a demand for mind altering substances, due to most people's busy lives and drugs serve as a release.
    I think the decriminalisation of all drugs for personal use is a step in the right direction. It will save the government money as it wont need to fight drugs any more, so allowing more money to be spent on schools and hospitals ect.
    Its a shame that the complete legalisation of the "softer" drugs, for example, Cannabis hasn't occurred. As there is a huge amount of tax that could be gained from the sale. Which I could imagine any country could do with a bit extra cash.
    This also means that people have to interact with dealers less and decreasing the black market.
    Cannabis is a remarkably safe drug and no-one in the world to date has ever died from a cannabis overdose. (people die from smoking related illness). You would have to eat at least 70g of solid analytical THC or over 1kg of herbal cannabis before it would get toxic.
    LSD also, is less toxic than vitamin C, however it is a very potent drug, working at the microgram level.
    However the sale of "harder" drugs, like Heroin and Crack Cocaine should be still illegal. Due to it's increased toxicity and addictiveness.
    Most people have a very stereotypical idea of what a drug user is like, however most of the time, it is incorrect.
    I know doctors, teachers, lawyers, chemists and more professionals that all have use drugs at some point in their lives. Are they criminals?
    Most people who oppose the use of drug's only do so because they do not know enough about them and what they do. Most drug death are generally drug overdose's due to the lack of knowledge about how to take and use a drug.
    Leah Betts is a classic example when she drank 15 pint's of water in 90 mins, when it is recommended 1 pint per hour.
    After all modern pharmaceuticals can kill if used incorrectly, i.e don't take aspirin and paracetamol together, but we don't ban them.
    Well done Portugal and let's hope that other country's including the UK, will follow suit.

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  • 110. At 6:22pm on 06 Jul 2009, Unc wrote:

    Fantastic debate guys,

    Not much to add except to LippyLippo #107 (and prior):

    Everything you state in your last post has already been covered and covered again, yet you somehow manage to ignore all the counter arguments and contniue to rehash and try to hammer home your misinformed views (which seem to be based purely on steryotypes.)

    Do you work for the government by any chance?

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  • 111. At 7:31pm on 06 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    LippyLippo wrote:
    "The next fundamental point is that there are too many negatives to taking currently illegal drugs in a recreational sense, and virtually no positives. A few messed-up poets doesnt really count."


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1dfGR9G768


    The there's also this:
    "Marijuana has been used for thousands of years, chiefly for fashioning rope, paper and cloth, but its intoxicating properties have long been cherished as well. Thomas Jefferson grew marijuana on his plantation and smoked it. The first American flags were woven from hemp (marijuana) and American farmers were instructed to grow more of the by-then illegal crop in order to support the war effort during WW2. In colonial Virginia, not growing marijuana was a crime, because the plant was used to make an essential product, rope."

    Source: http://www.truthtree.com/drugs.shtml

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  • 112. At 08:44am on 07 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    LippyLippo, there are very little benefits too many hobbies, take horse riding kills more than ecstasy does in a year according too prof. Nutt, no real benefits it would be healthier and maybe safer too take a 40 mins brisk walk but we aren't calling for all pointless activities to be banned because WE don't like them or because some ARE more dangerous than illegal drug use.

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  • 113. At 12:26pm on 07 Jul 2009, Ernie wrote:

    #107 LippyLippo

    We've already addressed everything you have to say there. Just because you (or I) doesn't buy drugs, doesn't mean we have a hope in hell of stopping everyone else from doing so. Your continued denial that prohibition is the evil is what causes the money that *will* be spent on these things regardless of your rhetoric to be funnelled towards criminal gangs.

    And your whole screed on how we should be grateful for what we've got, well let me just say it sounds frightfully like every oppressor in history, be they religious, racist or whatever else. "Look! You've got all this! Asking for any more is simply arrogant!"

    How about you butt out of everyone else's life? You clearly haven't got the first clue about the differing effects, harm or addictivity profiles of the multitude of things that make up "drugs", so your opinion is pretty much worthless anyway.

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  • 114. At 2:27pm on 07 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    107. At 4:22pm on 06 Jul 2009, LippyLippo wrote:
    "...To all the pro-legals frothing with rage...Various posters have stated...legalisation...is necessary to reduce the involvement of criminals...if youre worried about criminals benefiting from drugs you could help a lot by simply not taking them. I understand that they make you feel nice, but is it really worth the price we all have to pay?..."

    I've re-read your post this morning, and I have to add to my previous statement @ 108. I love the way you paint your pictures in words, Lippy. We are all 'frothing with rage' apparently - do you write for the Guardian by chance? This is a debate, and a debate is a means to an end by way of discussion, not a rabid exhibition of fury and frustration, as is suggested by your opening comment.

    Any rage, frothing or otherwise, is manifested in response to your condescending tone which has no place here. To illustrate, I'll take your comment "...you could help a lot by simply not taking them..." and linked to your "...I understand that they make you feel nice, but..." means that you try to understand why people might consider inflicting, heaven forbid, a DRUG upon themselves, and even that it feels nice, but then you drop in that throw-away line, just stop anyway. You've obviously not read nor understood any of the arguments that have been posted here by any of the sensible, respectable posters.

    The next time you put that kettle on, and brew up a lovely cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate, and take that first sip, do NOT exclaim 'AHhhh' because you think it feels good, or tastes nice, but just pour the entire cup down the sink.

    (reference: Wikipedia) Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant (a DRUG). Yep, not just a legal drug; that term that people use to 'moralise' their drug use, but it is in-fact a central nervous system stimulant. Just like cocaine, it has the effect of temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. Caffeine is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive substance, but unlike many other psychoactive substances it is legal and unregulated in nearly all jurisdictions. It is a drug that makes you feel good. Get it? Take away 'legal / illegal' and just use 'drug that makes you feel good' and you should get it. If you don't then I cannot explain it any more colourfully for you.

    "...but surely this doesnt come through chaining yourself to an addictive habit..."
    You keep talking about addiction - are you specifically talking about one drug, or are you still bundling them all together. For your benefit, I'll say it again, not all illegal drugs are addictive. Some are pure pleasure - think coffee, tea, chocolate.

    "...I can even understand breaking the law if you feel that your cause is particularly worthy and the law needs changing..."
    Wow - are you coming over to our side? Is discussion working? See Lippy, that is the point - it is because we DO feel that the cause is particularly worthy and that the law DOES need changing. You've hit the nail on the head.

    "...but can you honestly say that changing the law so people can get high more easily is really necessary?..."
    Yes :)
    No - that is not what is being said. I fear a repetition coming - The point is to change the law so that the lesser drugs (let us say Cannabis for the sake of this argument) are made available to within an acceptable standard, quality and price, so removing the 'street' element, ladder of criminals, smuggling and associated criminal behaviour that most people, including people who use drugs, find so ugly. Criminal, by the way, purely because the SUBSTANCE is illegal, not the ACTIVITY.

    As for the 'is it necessary' argument - NO, of course it isn't necessary. Cars, buses, trains and planes aren't necessary. Working ones butt off to keep up the mortgage payments, paying for the unnecessary car, drinking oneself into oblivion on a Friday night isn't necessary, but they ease the way Lippy. They make things a bit more bearable. We want these unnecessary things - so they're wanted, not needed. WANTED.

    "...These hardened criminals making a fortune selling drugs..."
    If there are any cannabis dealers reading this - hi there hardened criminals - how's your fortune going? This is just untrue. People who sell weed do so at pretty much no profit. It barely covers your petrol - believe me. I'm sorry, I really am, but you need to get a better view on the world - it's not quite as you imagine.

    "...we should aim to eliminate the market itself..."
    I really cannot begin to come to terms with this statement. I'll just say that, as I've been speaking about Cannabis here, which is also known as Marijuana, from where we get the word Ganja, which in turn is taken from the Sanskrit word gañj, goes to show that this DRUG has been used by humans for at least 2500 years - likely much longer but as Sanskrit was the first of the written languages, nothing has been written about Cannabis before this date. How the heck would one go about eliminating a market like that. Pray tell.

    "...You want freedom to wreck your senses without dirtying your hands dealing with a criminal empire..."
    My hands are plenty dirty - for 3 years I supported a partner who, following being abused as a child, and never really having a father figure to aspire to, ended up on heroin at the age of 17. Now 32, the addiction is still unbreakable, and I spent lots of time and lots of money trying help my partner break the habit of a lifetime, literally. It ended up biting me, but I was quick to realise, and took the risk and approached the authorities. I was placed into a treatment program, but in order to help myself, I needed to admit my details to the Home Office - a normally upstanding, decent human being, who did nothing but the right thing, got involved in a world that would never be experienced, and have a name with the Home Office just because I tried to help a person I loved. Now, where is the selfishness there. YOU TELL ME

    "...The pro-legals always start from the standpoint that people are going to do them anyway, so why not just let them? ...
    What was your view of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. People, standing up for their rights, and they won, eventually. That is where we are - outside the Stonewall Inn, Lower Manhattan, NY, in 1969, putting our point across. Different cause, same process.




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  • 115. At 4:43pm on 07 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    SHLA2UK #114.

    further to your attempt at educating LippyLippo (waste of time, IMO).

    late last year a 7500 year old grave in perfect condition was excavated in western China, it contained cannabis "prepared for smoking" in a leather pouch; it is believed that the buried person was a shaman.

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  • 116. At 4:59pm on 07 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    115. At 4:43pm on 07 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:
    "...SHLA2UK #114.

    further to your attempt at educating LippyLippo (waste of time, IMO).

    late last year a 7500 year old grave in perfect condition was excavated in western China, it contained cannabis "prepared for smoking" in a leather pouch; it is believed that the buried person was a shaman..."

    Excellent JR - I rest my case (finally, maybe)

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  • 117. At 5:07pm on 07 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    oops, correction to #115.

    2700 years, not 7500.

    http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/short/59/15/4171

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  • 118. At 6:51pm on 07 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 119. At 7:37pm on 07 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    re. Cannabis.

    a good source of information is 'cannabis culture' by Patrick Matthews, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2003, ISBN: 0-7475-6614-3.

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  • 120. At 7:40pm on 07 Jul 2009, Euforiater wrote:

    Thanks again Mark for bringing this out into the open. I think over the past few weeks the argument for some sort of legalisation has been well won. Leaving aside the benefits of taking a profitable industry out of the hands of those who would do harm, quite simply it's freedom of the individual against those who stand to gain from prohibition i.e. fanatical police chiefs/politicians/drug barons/"*Moralists"/those that think that Logan's run was a good plan for government.

    Referring to Isenhorn's piece earlier on (post 13) "As a conclusion to my rant I would say that indeed we need a discussion about what to do with drugs, but for everybodys's sake let us present the facts as they are."
    - I agree with this but Mark, can't you use your BBC connections to get something on primetime about this discussing the pros and cons of legalisation but more particularly explaining how best to do it? To me they'd have to use the previously-discussed harm matrix to fix the point of open (as per alcohol) sale, then from that point upwards provide on a more prescription-based approach, coupled with education.

    * I speechmark Moralist because as we all know, in early 1940s Holland we remember it used to be peoples' "moral" duty to report hidden Jews.

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  • 121. At 2:27pm on 08 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    120. At 7:40pm on 07 Jul 2009, Euforiater wrote:
    "...Referring to Isenhorn's piece earlier on (post 13) "As a conclusion to my rant I would say that indeed we need a discussion about what to do with drugs, but for everybodys's sake let us present the facts as they are."..."

    Mark, I also raised this at post #88, as a next step taking this current discussion forward. It would be necessary to get a good cross section of expert views - that would include recreational and habitual users of various substances, medical and legal representation, people involved in addiction rehab and treatment, either as a victim or support professional, preferably both, and people with view both for an against, to get a balanced opinion.

    The momentum has slowed since you opened your first blog - Give Drug Users a Break - because I suspect people think that they're talking to themselves now and simply repeating the same old stuff over and over. Come on Mark, recapture the momentum and let's have an open debate on the matter.

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  • 122. At 3:13pm on 08 Jul 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    i third shla2uk and euforiator. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction say that 29.6% of 16-59 year old in the UK use(d) cannabis, this is a massive debate whether or not the media or Gov want it. It is always the big debate on the HYS website.

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  • 123. At 11:54am on 09 Jul 2009, curigane wrote:

    A comment made refered that not all drugs had been decreed in Portugal. This is not so. All of them with no exception won't take u to jail ever. As a portuguese I can say that heroin consuption has decreased tremendously since this law was approved. I don't know the reasons for that to be but it's a fact.

    The portuguese people don't care about this law. Most of us don't even know it's something that's going on in PT only. The truth is that no one cares. It hasn't been negative in nothing as far as i can tell and things are indeed better now.

    PT had in the 90's one of the highest rates of heroin consuption in europe, something that we don't anymore.

    I just like to add something more. When the law was proposed the right wing parties and conservatives all oposed it. Presently they all support it. It's not a polemic law in PT at all.

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  • 124. At 4:02pm on 09 Jul 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    Given the amusing reply from no10.gov.uk to bansis above, I suggest a petition to make alcohol illegal; to paraphrase the government reponse:

    "The Government has no intention of legalising alcohol. In response to the Home Affairs Committee report The Governments Drugs Policy: Is It Working? (2002), the Government stated that We do not accept that legalisation and regulation is now, or will be in the future, an acceptable response to the presence of drugs and that includes alcohol.

    Alcohol is a controlled, illicit drug for good reasons. It has a number of acute and chronic health effects and prolonged use can induce dependence. Even the occasional use of alcohol can pose significant dangers for people with mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, and particular efforts need to be made to encourage abstinence in such individuals.

    The Government considers that it makes sense, on health grounds, for alcohol to remain a controlled drug whose unauthorised production, supply and possession are, and will remain, illegal."

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  • 125. At 5:38pm on 09 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    124. At 4:02pm on 09 Jul 2009, Chris_X wrote:
    "...Alcohol is a controlled, illicit drug for good reasons..." and "...for alcohol to remain a controlled drug whose unauthorised production, supply and possession are, and will remain, illegal..."

    Funny, and so true.
    Alcohol is a controlled substance in that it is licensed - or rather, the person producing, distributing and selling it must be licensed. Unlicensed production of alcohol in the form of beer or wine is allowed, but the unlicensed production of 'hard liquor' or spirits remains illegal. Whiskey distillation specifically.

    Even with 'home brew', if you try to sell it you are breaking the law, unless you are a licensee.

    To draw comparisons to illegal substances, it is an offence not only to purchase such substance, but also to purchase for someone else. Can I buy you a pint?

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  • 126. At 8:48pm on 09 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    re. alcohol. (#124, #125)

    check out the OED. interestingly, alcohol is merely a "colourless liquid that can cause drunkenness" whilst all the other substances mentioned here and in earlier blogs have the word drug in their definition. hence, I suppose, the stupid phrase: "drugs and alcohol".

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  • 127. At 1:58pm on 10 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:

    to all who argued in favour of prohibition:

    "..number of people who have died in the western Indian state of Gujarat after drinking toxic illegal alcohol has now risen to 107 ... a "dry" state where the sale of alcohol is banned. But deaths from illegally brewed alcohol are common in South Asia. Last year, about 150 people died from drinking tainted alcohol.."

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8144023.stm

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  • 128. At 5:32pm on 10 Jul 2009, Steve - Iver wrote:

    127. At 1:58pm on 10 Jul 2009, jr4412 wrote:
    "..number of people who have died in the western Indian state of Gujarat after drinking toxic illegal alcohol has now risen to 107 ..."

    Exactly my friend.
    It was not necessarily the alcohol that killed, but the unlicensed, illegal, unregulated, dangerous, greedy and illicit way it was made. An argument in favour of the principle of regulation, at the very least.

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  • 129. At 6:47pm on 10 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    The Cannabis Biomass Energy Equation

    The Report of the FCDA, Europe expounds of the advantages of using cannabis biomass as a source of fuel.

    "Of all know plant species, Cannabis Sativa delivers the biomass fuel energy in the most economically efficient degree as a result of attributes uniquely inherent to the plant itself."

    The Report then explains these attributes and we present a summary:

    1. Cannabis is the most prolific of the suitable plants and grows well in almost all climates, reaching maximum biomass yield in about four months.

    2. Cannabis is a low-moisture, woody plant. This means that little or no pre-drying is needed before pyrolysis (no energy needs to be expended to dry the crop, unlike sugar cane, maize etc)

    3. Cannabis biomass fuel-energy can be made immediately available in all parts of the world.

    4. After the seedling stage, cannabis is very resistant to drought.

    5. Cannabis, with roots penetrating 10 to 12 inches in the first 6 weeks, can survive floods. This can also have an important beneficial effect in preventing soil erosion.

    6. Cannabis can survive intermittent frosts even as low as 12 degrees Fahrenheit - 20 degrees of frost.

    7. Cannabis does not require fertiliser.

    8. Cannabis flourishes even on marginal and normally unproductive land.

    9. Cannabis does not deplete the soil in which it grows. In fact it can improve the soil by leaf-shedding, aeration and reducing weeds.

    "Prohibition of Cannabis Sativa disallows the most cultivable, optimum dry biomass plant species on Earth, uniquely and immediately capable of the economical replacement of all Mankind's use of high-pollutant, costly fuels and uranium, for energy, petro-chemical products, gasoline and plastics." (FCDA)

    According to the FCDA Report, "By pyrolysis conversion, biomass delivers 5,000 - 8,000 BTU's per pound [weight]. It is calculated that only 6 per cent of the agricultural land area of the contiguous United States would now produce more than sufficient Cannabis Biomass to supply all current demand for gasoline, diesel and oil for that energy-voracious country.

    "From only 2 crops (8 months, temperate climate) each acre will produce not less than 20 tons of Cannabis Biomass, which yield 2,000 gallons of methanol."

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  • 130. At 5:05pm on 11 Jul 2009, iNotHere wrote:

    @ # 129, Secratariat

    Excellent post, I never understand why the facts you point to are never the overwhelming points that are highlighted in the fight to legalise the plant that could well solve our dwindling rescources and pollution problems. I don't think there is another plant on the planet that is more versatile than cannabis (I stand to be corrected if there is one).
    But can the big corporations cope with the lowering of their profits? I doubt it. The governments of the world are beholden to these companies from very large donations so they aren't gonna cut their nose off to help the planet are they....

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  • 131. At 12:15pm on 12 Jul 2009, AJS wrote:

    @ Secratariat, # 129:

    You could at least have translated the measuring units in your post for a non-American audience. That would be 25 - 30 cm. of root growth in 6 weeks, withstands temperatures down to -11°C, produces 3 - 5 kWh of energy per kg. and 45 tonnes/hectare yielding 400 litres of methanol per tonne respectively.

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  • 132. At 1:45pm on 13 Jul 2009, Secratariat wrote:

    @ iNotHere

    It is probably because it is easier to scream "reefer madness" and bank on all of the blue-rinse votes than it is to discuss the reality of the situation.

    As we've seen from some of the other posts on here, there are plenty of people who have prejudices based on little more than ignorance & fear who do not want to see this plant reintroduced for either personal or commercial uses.



    @ ajs_dy

    Sorry mate, I'll try to be a little more considerate next time.
    Regardless of the units being used, the figures are still very impressive !

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  • 133. At 10:26pm on 30 Jul 2009, ekezzar wrote:

    An interesting article, but from personal experience I have to point out some other aspects of Portugal's drugs policies - the day to day realities.
    I spent much of 2002-2008 in Lisbon, living on the streets and with a huge addiction to heroin, and later cocaine as well.
    Although I never feared going to jail, Portugal still has a long way to go in seriously addressing the problem of hard drugs.
    Firstly, there's the fear of a beating. In Lisbon the 'Civil Police', should they catch you doing drugs, may not charge you but you will certainly be bruised - if you are lucky, in the street, if not so, at the station - I have known people to come out with broken legs from such treatment. Even if taken to hospital, medics will collude with the paperwork which states that a person 'fell'.
    As for the distribution of KIT, syringes and other safe injecting equipment, it has severely downturned in the last few years. When I arrived in Portugal, almost all chemists operated a needle exchange scheme. By 2005, however, they were already rationing each user to 1 KIT (2 syringes) per day, and were not available at weekends. Unfortunately the needs of an addict's body state that if he is unable to use a clean syringe, he will use a dirty one, even if it is not his own. Within another year, there was not a chemist in central Lisbon who operated the needle exchange scheme, although most of them do sell syringes for 50 cêntimos each. The only place to get KIT now is at the methadone vans operated by GAT (Cabinet for Help for Dependents on narcotics). These come once a day for between one and two and a half hours to only four or five places in the city and are always full.
    HIV and Hepatitis infection is still rife. In my community of friends and acquaintances, anyone who did not have at least one of these viruses was an exception. Sadly I have seen countless numbers die before reaching their early thirties.
    Many of the users I met on the street there had nowhere to go to get clean. There is a methadone programme provided by GAT, but this alone is not much help. Those needing more stability or a break from the daily associates with whom they would be tempted to reuse, only have one option unless they are lucky enough to have an understanding family; unfortunately a rare instance. They would have to go to a Centro, 'charity' run places, usually Christian. Although I cannot claim to have anything against any faith, when I heard tales of these Centros forcing a person to attend morning prayer regardless of personal faith as a prerequesite, as well as taking all clothing, money and personal possessions on admission to a Centro, this rankled.
    So there is still a long way to go in Portugal to protect users of illicit drugs. Obvious suggestions are safe shooting galleries and easier access to KIT. Longer-term solutions are holistic social support schemes where people who have no support can take a break, get clean and sort their heads out. I hope this comment is illuminating.
    Kez Russell

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