Update 10 March 2009: no one listens to rational opinions on drugs like mine. Maybe when an establishment voice like that of the Economist says exactly what I have said below about legalising drug use, western politicians may listen.
It is time for the Australian government to legalise and / or decriminalise the sale, distribution, possession and consumption of all recreational drugs. One critic challenges the Rudd government to pursue policy innovation in relation to drug use. This is long overdue. Prohibition is a complete failure. It creates a black market that inflates prices, reduces quality and causes crime.
Governments routinely interpret the views of the community to be more conservative than they actually are, and thus structure policy decisions to meet this falsely conservative opinion rather than the real views, and the real needs, of the community.
The desire to experience altered consciousness through the use of drugs is far stronger than the fear of persecution. “The attempt to ban people from doing what they want to do, when it does no harm to anyone else, is destined to fail so long as people want to do those things.”
In the UK, drug policy change may occur sooner than in Australia thanks to a more sophisticated debate and a stronger voice for change presented by various law and health experts. Read 10 Reasons to legalise all drugs and how cannabis use in the Netherlands reduced after legalisation.
As a historian I see the current drug hypocrisy as a complete joke. Those drugs found in Europe from pre-history, such as alcohol, are legal in modern western society. The drugs found in products adopted during the renaissance (chocolate, tobacco, tea) remain legal in modern western society regardless of their exotic foreign (to the western mind) origins.
It’s the drugs originating from hostile foreign places (China, South America) during times of moral panic, economic uncertainty and political conflict (nineteenth century America and the Victorian era British empire) such as opium and cocaine that are currently illegal in the west.
I believe the legal status of different drugs is due far more to the political and moral values of the times in which the drugs became popular in the west than the qualities of the drugs themselves. Drugs introduced in the renaissance were accepted; drugs adopted later during the Victorian era and the neurotic morality of the twentieth century are illegal. The perpetuation of this meaningless distinction is a political nonsense and a moral hypocrisy.