Recreational Drugs. An issue that has for decades resulted in a political consensus between the main establishment parties in both the United Kingdom and the United States by supporting a “War on Drugs” started by Richard Nixon in the 1970s, to criminalise, ban and prohibit the selling, consuming and transporting of illegal recreational drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine, crystal meth and illegal highs.
However, this political consensus seems to be close to disintegrating after the “War on Drugs” has utterly failed on both sides of the Atlantic. The “War on Drugs” has cost the British Government billions of pounds (Or in the US’ case, $25.4bn in 2014 by the Federal Govt alone) as more police officers are needed to deal with charging people who use drugs or have been selling drugs and more border staff are needed to prevent drugs coming into the country, it has been inefficient as it would cost less to treat people with drug addictions compared to simply throwing them in prison, and it has not stopped many people from using recreational drugs.
In light of this, I believe the Labour Party should offer a new alternative to the “War on Drugs” policy that has so utterly failed in the United Kingdom. We should be legalising all drugs and treating it as an addiction, instead of a crime. We could treat those with an addiction to say, cocaine or magic mushrooms in the NHS. It would be more efficient, cost-effect and morally, give people more freedom to do what they like to their bodies as long as they do not harm others. Plus, if people believe that’s too far, we could simply legalisation the use of cannabis and see how the effect is. As cannabis is less dangerous than say, alcohol.
Urgent drugs reform is also making progress in the other Westminster parties as mentioned in the beginning. Last October, Lib Dem ministers in the Home Office were pushing for Cannabis and some “club drugs” to be legalised. Only to be denied by Theresa May who resisted any change. Then came Nick Clegg’s intervention on the drugs debate, saying that Britain must be part of the debate on a new approach on the war on drugs (which in my view has utterly failed, just like alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s). Then, very interestingly, Bright Blue, a Conservative Party think tank urged a shift in the law regarding drugs criminalisation. They also argue drugs reform would appeal to young and ethnic-minority voters whilst also saving millions of pounds of public money. Even Nigel Farage currently supports drugs legalisation.
Those Lib Dem Home Office Ministers, Nick Clegg, the Bright Blue think tank and Nick Farage are all absolutely right. The momentum is building and Labour would be served binge part of the winning and right team by calling for recreational drugs to be legalised and to be be treated like an addiction, similar to alcohol/alcoholism rather than treating people who use recreational drugs as criminals.
Regardless, the basic principle should be that the Government does not intervene in social issues. The only time it should do is to provide regulation in order to curtail harm done to other people. For example, banning smoking in cars where children are present, as children cannot consent to inhaling secondhand smoke.
Come on Labour, act bold and progressive on this issue. It cannot be right to restrict a person’s freedom to use recreational drugs if they only harm themselves. Otherwise self-harming, suicide, alcohol and cigarettes would be illegal. Plus, it’s more efficient to treat it as an addiction, rather than the crime. As more people will be able to receive free, efficient help via the NHS and the police/border control can more focus on more important issues such as national defence and other crimes such as rape and murder.
We are the Party of Social Liberalism and Social Reform. We legalised homosexuality, banned capital punishment, legalising abortion and divorce, repealed section 28, allowed trans people to be recognised and more. Time it’s time to do the same by legalising recreational drugs.