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Let's talk about drugs, not demonise them

  1. Phungushead
    I have used drugs and that is why I am coming forward to tell my story. I am a lawyer and my drug use has no connection with my job. It is a choice I have made.

    I have had some positive experience with drugs, and of course some bad ones. I have had marijuana and laughed a great deal, but also experienced paranoia and anxiety. I have also had both good and bad experiences with hallucinogens and other drugs.

    But in no way do I advocate that others should use drugs. I believe that using drugs should be a person’s own choice – whether they take traditionally legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco, or illicit ones, such as ecstasy, cocaine or marijuana.

    I believe strongly that this choice should not be made by governments, but that people should be able to make their own, informed, choices.

    How can people make an informed choice when drugs cannot be discussed openly, when drugs are demonised and prohibited?

    We must discuss drugs openly and bring them into a regulated market so people can be educated to their dangers.

    Tobacco use has halved in the past 20 years, not because tobacco was made illegal, but because it is regulated. Tobacco is sold with warning labels and people are educated in school about its dangers.

    All drugs are dangerous - the legal ones and the illegal ones. But many things are dangerous: gambling, eating fast food and even driving a car. A society should not prohibit these inherently risky activities. Instead, we need to make laws to regulate them; for example, with driving, we force people to obtain a licence and drive at certain speeds.

    So too with drug use. We should have a regulated system in which certain drug-related activities are prohibited, such as drug use in public, or drug use that would affect one’s capacity to work, or that could cause harm to others.

    But I believe that taking drugs in one’s home or in certain designated places should be legalised and regulated by the government, as is happening now in parts of Europe and America.

    Once drugs are legalised, the government will be taking the manufacture and supply out of the hands of drug dealers and criminals.

    Drugs will be safer – not mixed with unknown substances. People would be able to see on a label what they are taking.

    People could ask professionals what dosage was safest for them and be warned of the health dangers associated with each drug.

    If they wish to use those drugs at home, with that knowledge, how can we as a modern society say no?

    How can we as a society tell a user, "if you want to take drugs you must buy from a drug dealer and risk your life by taking something that you have no real clue is what you thought it was"?

    That, I think, is a failure of prohibition, and our society should be ashamed of every tragic drug death, be it of a heroin addict in an ally way or a partygoer at a festival.

    Nearly all drug deaths result from the problems caused by prohibition.

    Economically, ending prohibition would be smart for society, too. The drug market is estimated to be $17 billion a year in Australia – and none of this is taxed.

    The money goes into the hands of criminals, and society never sees a cent.

    The government also spends about $2 billion a year policing the drug laws. The courts are filled with about 80,000 drug cases a year, most for possession of small quantities of cannabis. Not only is it a waste of money, but it criminalises young people and potentially destroys their lives.

    Being a lawyer, I could have faced sanction for my own drug use, which could have prevented me from working in my field. However, I feel it is worth the risk to advocate for something I believe in and I use my skills to assist people who need legal help.

    I know many doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, and others who have taken drugs; most have been lucky not to have been caught but they have risked their careers and futures. One person I know could not follow his dream of being a paramedic because of a small drug-possession charge.

    All of these people provide a service and benefit to society and we are better off because of them; they are not criminals, and they should never risk criminality for the choice of drug they ingest.

    I do not use any drugs (legal or illegal) regularly.

    I think that addiction and overuse of any drug is very dangerous and a bad thing.

    I believe that drugs should be taken responsibly and with the user educated to the dangers so he or she can make an informed choice. A regulated supply would also make drugs safer for users and allow society to deal with this issue in a pragmatic way.

    Drug use is up – people are taking more drugs than ever – and the policy of prohibition is a failure.

    I think the demonisation of drug users has meant the drug problem is never openly discussed. The solution is to bring drug use into the open so we can have a collective and honest discussion.

    The author is involved with a Drug Law Reform group called Unharm, which aims to promote harm minimisation in drug policy.

    14 April 2014

    Miles Hunt
    Sydney Morning Herald
    Prohibit prohibition: Miles Hunt. Photo: Ben Rushton


  1. thisoneguy
    Drugs aren't the problem, Perception is

    There are many great points made in the entire article, but people naturally agree or disagree with each other. This is a basic feature and the definition of culture.

    We live in a society of freedom, liberty, and justice for all citizens. Every law that is enacted creates a new barrier for people to debate on each side of. This is democratic culture; a culture of peaceful debate. These barriers and walls accumulate and create a diverse culture of citizens who wish to debate the source of societal sufferings. It is our nature to suffer, and drugs can alleviate suffering without irrational debate, just as exercise and meditation can. Drugs can also cause suffering; a form of suffering in which we can learn to control with insight and education, just like we can with the suffering of exercise and suffering of meditation. And while any good human does not wish for the suffering of another, our interference of any other human's suffering conflicts with the nature of suffering in the individual that choses to use drugs. Our wish to reduce harm by prohibiting drugs, while altruistic, interferes with the natural course of human events. Therefore, the freedoms and liberties of an individual naturally conflict through the action of justice. It's a pattern in nature that has been around since the dawn of civilization. We're not going to end this the more we remain ignorant of the true sources of human suffering. I do not know what these sources are, but unhappiness and jealousy seem to fit the description.

    Drugs kill people, just like guns do. People choose to use either one. They make this choice out of a personal wish to end their own suffering, which is why suicide is a major societal issue. Instead of being distributed with education, many are prohibited. It is true that people can make irrational decisions while under the influence of drugs, just as they can also make irrational decisions while holding a gun, or other position of power. We do this with Justice in our society. Justice is a weapon which has the ability to kill also, but justice kills populations, while guns and drugs kill individuals. Since these are universal truths of society that we cannot eliminate, rather profit and benefit from.

    Profit and benefit are the foundation of a society's economy. They create wealth and abundance, which in turn creates jealousy. Notice the pattern? Liberty and Wealth, Freedom and Abundance, Justice and Jealousy. They are all interchangeable, they are all the source of economy. Unfortunately, the complexity of our society underwrites our economy. Without prohibition, individuals would choose to use drugs instead of work. The opposite is also true. By creating a barrier between these actions (to work or not work) using justice and politics, society creates its economy. Politicians create jobs. Slavery continues to exist. While there are conspiracy theorists out there who believe a single individual or organization is behind the prohibition of drugs, there are also conspiracy theorists who believe individuals or organizations are behind the prohibition of work (which is not nearly as popular an idea in our society). Without division, there can be no labor. Any good capitalist would agree that without labor, society cannot benefit, but this is untrue. We do not need material things like guns, drugs, or economies. We only believe we need them for the reason that we are altruistic beings. Our beliefs are a source of suffering. True suffering begins when nature regains control of these things because it has fallen out of the hands of people, or was never in the hands of people to begin with. This is why in Buddhism, the first Noble Truth is "life is suffering."

    Because there are many that understand this (even though they do not realize it), suffering can be a source of profit for those who wish to pursue it. Now that we have created a society of ease through hard work, any societal change which might cause the decline of sustainable work to maintain society is seen as non-progressive (and irrationally negative). Unfortunately, this is a wrong view for the reason that the action of non-action is equally as powerful as action itself. Henry Thoreau understood this. Ghandi understood this. Martin Luther understood this. Martin Luther King Jr. understood this. The Dalai Lama teaches it today. People take action because not only is this a popular idea, but it appealed to the least intelligent of a majority population based on a single, altruistic believe in equality and non-violence. It did not appeal to the minority of greedy capitalists jealous of the notion that non-conformity and non-action might actually bring about peace. However, just like any addiction, the capitalist is addicted to profit by their individual liberty to pursue it because it is their individual pursuit of happiness. A drug addiction is no different, and equally as harmful to a population if the drug addict makes an immoral decision, which drugs, politics, profit, and guns all have the power of influence to do so.

    Therefore, by taking responsible, measured, non-violent steps toward the elimination of prohibition, this approach can be the safest way to alleviate the suffering caused by drugs, and if people became more mindful and aware of these truths, we would have a path toward the end of prohibition, and nature would take care of the rest.

    Our control over nature is also an addictive delusion and disassociation of the natural progression of evolutionary development. Also, culture, society, and the individual are naturally resistant to change. If there is profit to be made from the prohibition of drugs, the naturally those who are dependent upon this profit (for self-centered and economic reasons), such as private funding sources for local, state, and federal penitentiaries and political campaign subsidiaries, will use every resource available to combat the change if it harms profit potential and capital gains. And they are extremely good at using their resources to endorse a self-centered idea marketed under the guise of an altruistic legislative idea that under-informed (or unintelligent) populations will buy into through the abuse of justice because they are at liberty and have the freedom to do so.

    The point is, prohibition will not end in a society of addicts, whether it be an addict of political or financial gain, an addict of a socially acceptable work (whatever that work may be), or an addict of drugs. Addiction is another word for faith, and our beliefs are as innumerable as our dreams. Faith is powerful. We can practice faith by using action or non-action, both equally important and dependent on conditions we cannot control (those of nature) in order to make change in our society regarding the perception of drugs and justice as a tool for economic and social stability in modern societies.

    I am, of course, a hypocrite. The majority of us are.
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