View attachment 22447 Next time Jonathan Dimbleby feels like mooting the idea of decriminalising hard drugs, perhaps he should take a walk beneath the stairwells of some of our inner-city housing estates.
There, he won’t find the junkies gently sneezing — as he tells us he did when he snorted a line of cocaine in the U.S. in the late Sixties.
He is more likely to find that they set on him with a knife in a state of psychotic rage.
The connection between cocaine, mental illness and violence is indisputable.
Among the many studies that have found a link was an analysis of 1,000 people arrested for violent offences in Greater Manchester, more than 400 of whom tested positive for cocaine.
Even when users are not harming others, they are certainly taking up more than their fair share of places on NHS emergency wards.
Sneezing is not listed as a side-effect of cocaine use in medical textbooks, but there are plenty of acute conditions that are on the list: stroke, brain haemorrhage, hypothermia, agitated delirium, cardiac arrest, irregular heart rhythm and convulsions.
And before anyone tries to say coke-users are just exercising their right to take whatever risks they like with their health, they might like to consider the thousands of children of junkies killed or injured by their parents each year, either as a result of violence or because they ended up swallowing the drugs themselves.
Croydon Hospital alone revealed recently it has admitted 56 children with acute intoxication as a result of illegal drug ingestion in the past five years. None of this seems to register with the celebrities and metropolitan liberals, among whom the legalisation of hard drugs has become a cause celebre.
To them, it seems, hard drugs are a slightly naughty way to brighten up a party — and, for a few unfortunates who cannot handle it, the precursor to a short break in rehab.
Unlike the residents of drug-ridden estates, they don’t live with the day-to-day consequences of living among drug addicts: the crazed individuals on the stairs, the children’s playgrounds littered with HIV-infected syringes, the urine-soaked lifts and so on.
Jonathan Dimbleby’s case — and that of the drugs legalisation lobby in general — is that the war on drugs has been an expensive failure.
Prohibition, goes the theory, has led people to experiment with drugs due to the allure of doing something illegal.
It has caused drug producers and suppliers both here and abroad to fight each other — and forced addicts to steal in order to fight their addictions.
Legalise drugs and their use can be regulated, so the argument goes, while users can be better supported.
It is all a dangerous delusion, often supported by suspect arguments and questionable statistics.
In June, a self-appointed legalisation pressure group called the Global Commission Of Drug Policy — whose supporters include Sir Richard Branson and former UN chief Kofi Annan — published a report claiming the worldwide use of illegal drugs had soared as a result of their illegality.
Its call for an end to the war on drugs was taken up by stars including Julie Christie, Dame Judi Dench and Sting.
The commission claims to be conducting an ‘informed, science-based discussion’ on drugs. But it is pretty poor science: this week, the UN Office On Drugs And Crime attacked the commission’s report for ‘flawed methodology’, in particular for misinterpreting its own statistics.
Far from rising, worldwide heroin and cocaine use is stable while use of cannabis is falling.
The idea that the illegality of drugs promotes their use is absurd. You only have to compare the number of drug addicts with the vastly larger number of alcoholics to see the potential for drug abuse were hard drugs to legalised.
Whenever drugs have been prohibited in the past, such as with the U.S. Narcotics Act of 1914, the number of users has plummeted, as the substances become harder to obtain.
Neither would drugs gangs lay down their arms were hard substances to be legalised. Can you imagine drugs barons in Colombia and or South London handing in their weapons and deciding to go straight? The idea that the war on drugs has failed is based on a false premise.
There was a war on hard drugs in Britain, but that was over 100 years ago, when opium use was stamped out.
In the past 40 years, we have had steady legalisation by stealth. Far from being a voice from the wilderness, the legalisation lobby has had a huge influence on drugs policies since the Sixties — with hugely damaging effects.
There was a time when drug-users could expect stiff sentences. In 1967, for example, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was sentenced to nine months in jail — though it was later commuted to a £1,000 fine (£10,000 in today’s money) for possession of marijuana.
Theoretically, users caught with class A drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, can still be sentenced to seven years in jail and those with class B drugs, such as cannabis, to five years.
But over the years, sentencing policy has reduced the law to a farce. In May of this year, Pete Doherty was finally sentenced to six months in jail for possessing cocaine, but that was after multiple previous convictions. Most are let off with a caution.
It is little better with dealers — only one third now receive custodial sentences. Meanwhile, the authorities have allowed prisons to become swamped with drugs. Surely, it cannot be hard to keep a secure environment, such as a jail, free of drugs; at least sniffer dogs could be used on every visitor and piece of prisoner’s mail.
Yet drug-use continues inside on a scale that suggests somebody must deliberately be turning a blind eye.
There has been no national debate over the steady relaxation of drugs policy: successive governments have allowed the law to be weakened, while maintaining the pretence they are still fighting a war on drugs.
Tony Blair’s government quietly downgraded drugs from a crime problem to a public health issue. Thus, hundreds of millions of pounds have been switched from fighting drug-dealers to managing drug-users’ habits: the Government annually spends £380 million on tackling the supply of drugs, compared with £800 million on treatment.
Of that latter sum, £300 million is spent supplying the heroin substitute methadone to addicts. Yes, the state is now spending nearly as much on supplying drugs to addicts as it is on investigating and trapping drug-dealers.
It is as if the police had given up trying to catch speeding motorists and were handing them vouchers for free sessions on Go-Kart tracks in the hope that they might then better manage their lust for thrills.
The Government will make no progress in reducing drug-use, so long as it treats drug-users as innocent victims of the drugs trade, rather than the law-breakers they are.
We don’t treat users of child porn as victims of porn merchants: we punish them for being complicit in the abuse of the children in the images they download from the internet.
So why is it any different with drugs? Without users to buy drugs, there would be no drugs trade; it is simple as that.
Jonathan Dimbleby asserted this week that ‘by criminalising the use of cocaine we are causing mayhem to the lives of millions of people in South America’.
That is a perverse logic: it is the coke-snorters who are causing the misery: every time a celebrity tips out a line of cocaine at a party they are complicit in the drugs trade, from Colombia to Peckham.
At least Mr Dimbleby had the sense to ask the question: ‘Do the people who use illegal substances here realise the havoc they are responsible for?’
Yet at the same time, the suggestion that drug-users should be subject to punishment raises the hackles of the pro-liberalisation lobby.
And it’s not just the Lib Dems, who annually vote for the legalisation of drugs at their conference, as they did this week.
It wasn’t so long ago that then Conservative shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe was vilified by members of her own party at a Conservative conference for proposing drug-users be subject to a £100 fine.
While the pro-legalisation lobby will carry on trying to make the desperate argument that swamping the country with more drugs will make society happier and more peaceful, people whose daily lives are blighted by violent drug-users want to ask a different question: when will a British government end the phoney war on drugs and actually start fighting?
Daily Mail 22nd Sept 2011