It’s another one of those posts about drug policy, I’m aftaid: this week’s All in the Mind covered the Portuguese experiment with decriminalisation (about which I posted recently), and is available to listen for the next few days. Depressingly, one of the contributors dropped a fairly broad hint – accurately, I think – that the UK would not be willing to make any comparable experiment, not because of any evidence against its advisability, but because of the cowardice of MPs and the bone-headedness of the commentariat (and electorate) to whom they’re in thrall – this is about 13 minutes in. (On which notion, remember this?) The same contributor also pointed out that the three main political parties have been forced by this reality to admit tacitly that criminalisation probably isn’t the best move, but cannot actually say that this is what they think clearly and publicly – hence they’re not only pushing a policy that plainly doesn’t work, but also one in which they really don’t believe.
[m]odern attitudes to drugs mirror those of advocates of temperance in the nineteenth century, who were moved by the terrible harms done to individuals, families, and communities by the abuse of alcohol. Few these days campaign for the prohibition of alcohol, and it is widely thought that a licensing system can mitigate a good deal of the harm of alcohol without unduly restricting the liberty of individuals to consume alcohol should they wish
– which seems to be on the money. Noone who argues for a reform of the drug laws is saying that there should be a free-for-all: it’s just a matter of pointing out that humans like getting off their chops (as do other animals, apparently), and that we aren’t going to let small considerations like legality and wisdom get in the way, so we might as well grow up about it and come up with a policy that reflects this.
Meanwhile, Ben Goldacre’s latest Bad Science column addresses similar concerns through the lens of the US’ reaction to the WHO’s report on cocaine in the 1990s. I don’t want to give away the plot, but it’s fair to say that the word “petulant” could be used with justice.