From The Times
September 23, 2008
It's just as wrong to use drugs as it is to sell them
George Michael has been treated far too leniently
Imagine being a latterday Pontius Pilate presented with two offenders and faced with a dilemma: which to grant a second chance and which to sentence to a long term in jail. Do you free the nervous Jamaican single mum caught at Heathrow with 30 capsules of cocaine in her intestines, having been persuaded to act as a drug mule by a gang promising money to educate her children? Or the multimillionaire pop star caught with crack cocaine in a London public lavatory?
No prizes for guessing which gets let off under Britain's bizarrely inconsistent war against drugs. The former can expect about eight years in Holloway prison, which is bulging with drug mules.
As for the latter, George Michael was released with a caution after being caught red-handed in Hampstead last Friday, despite this being his second offence in 18 months - last May he was given a brief driving ban and ordered to do community service after being found slumped in his car with cannabis and liquid Ecstasy in his blood.
With stolen goods, illegal weapons and child pornography, the law is clear: the user is as guilty as the supplier. The police didn't let Gary Glitter off with a little rap on the knuckles and the rest of us didn't shake our heads and say: “Poor Gary, how sad that he has fallen victim to these evil porn dealers.”
He was prosecuted, quite rightly, on the basis that those who provide the market for child porn are implicated in its production. So why then do such different attitudes persist in the case of drugs? If it is wrong to produce and trade drugs, then it is equally wrong to use them.
And yet how many drug users live in fear of ending up behind bars?
At worst they can expect to be ordered to attend a rehabilitation centre, where they will be showered with therapy and treated as victims.
Or even heroes: remember David Cameron saying that he was “incredibly proud” of a relative who had been through treatment for an addiction to hard drugs? Among drug users and drug peddlers alike, there are, of course, sometimes mitigating circumstances. If you have been brought up by drug addicts, beaten and abused, it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise if you grow up with a somewhat confused sense of right and wrong.
But none of this applies to George Michael, who is intelligent enough to know that taking crack is not just an issue of personal liberty: there is a clear association between use of the drug and propensity to commit violent crime. If caught with illegal drugs he should be treated to no less a punishment than if he had smuggled them into the country and sold them on the streets.