By Calvin Palmer
An editorial in the British Medical Journal is likely to make Tea Party members knock over the milk jug and splutter with righteous moral indignation.
It was their great hero President Ronald Reagan who launched the all-out war on drugs and successive administrations have fought the good fight but to no avail.
The editorial suggests that that the sale of cannabis should be licensed like alcohol because banning it had not worked.
Banning cannabis has increased drug-related violence because enforcement made “the illicit market a richer prize for criminal groups to fight over”.
An 18-fold increase in the anti-drugs budget in the US to $18billion between 1981 and 2002 had failed to stem the market for the drug.
In fact cannabis related drugs arrests in the US increased from 350,000 in 1990 to more than 800,000 a year by 2006, with seizures quintupling to 1.1million kilograms.
The editorial was written by Professor Robin Room of Melbourne University, Australia.
“In some places, state-controlled instruments — such as licensing regimes, inspectors, and sales outlets run by the Government — are still in place for alcohol and these could be extended to cover cannabis,” Room wrote.
He argues state-run outlets could provide “workable and well controlled retail outlets for cannabis”.
Room draws the parallel between alcohol prohibition, which was adopted by 11 countries between 1914 and 1920, and the ban on cannabis.
Eventually prohibition was replaced with “restrictive regulatory regimes, which restrained alcohol consumption and problems related to alcohol until these constraints were eroded by the neo-liberal free market ideologies of recent decades”.
The editorial concludes: “The challenge for researchers and policy analysts now is to flesh out the details of effective regulatory regimes, as was done at the brink of repeal of US alcohol prohibition.”
Earlier this year, Fiona Godlee, an editor of the Journal, which is run by the British Medical Association, endorsed an article by Steve Rolles, head of research at Transform, the drugs foundation, which called for an end to the war on drugs and its replacement by a legal system of regulation.
Dr Godlee said: “Rolles calls on us to envisage an alternative to the hopelessly failed war on drugs. He says, and I agree, that we must regulate drug use, not criminalize it.”
It is patently obvious that the Eisenhower-era mentality to drug use is not only hopelessly outdated but also largely irrelevant to a great many people, far-right Republicans being a notable exception.
I guess state-run cannabis outlets would be another form of big government that they detest, although they do not seem to mind big government imposing its moral views on cannabis on the rest of society and spending a boatload of tax-payers’ money trying to fight an unwinnable war.
Drug use is so widespread, a fact the Tea Party largely ignores but then its members largely ignores most aspects of American life being so engrossed in their own greed and selfishness, only two options remain open to my mind.
Either the penalty for drug possession, even a single joint, should be death by hanging — not the cosy lethal injection that makes the Tea Party feel good about itself — or drugs should be openly available to those who seek them through licensed outlets so governments can make money out of them just as they do out of alcohol and tobacco.
[Based on a report by The Daily Telegraph.]