The War On Drugs
In Derry and the surrounding area, including, Tyrone in Northern Ireland and parts of County Donegal in the Republic, drugs are at the centre of an ongoing struggle between those who seek to make a profit on them and those who seek to eradicate them from society altogether (Republican Action Against Drugs: R.A.A.D).
Neither side recognise the British cops that run the risk of being taken out by both parties. RAAD’s methods include shooting the alleged dealers in the arms and legs (“punishment shootings”); pipe bomb or arson attacks on the property of alleged dealers; and warning, threatening or banishing the alleged dealers. They have claimed responsibility for shooting one man dead, and have vowed to “execute” others. Nevertheless, those enforcing this martial law also find themselves under attack by drug lords and/or security services.
This represents one extreme of the war on drugs, however, this cannot be separated from the historical conflict between the Republic and North. In an exclusive interview with Irish singer Sinead O’connor, Sinead speaks about the causes of Ireland’s longstanding history of violence rooted in the british occupation. It was not ‘the Potato famine’ that wiped out more than half the Irish population over 200 years ago, Sinead suggests, it was the control of Irish land & crops by the british empire. Sinead felt that this gave rise to the never ending cycle of violence and Child Abuse that exists today in Ireland.
An Evidence Based Approach
So how does one draw the line between drugs that should be prohibited and those permitted, between street dealers and corporate drug pushers (big pharma etc)? Is it a case of drugs deemed legal are fine and those illegal are prohibited? It is far from black and white, as showed by the pictures below the most destructive drug on the whole is Alcohol. The fact is, in line with what Sinead was saying, the ongoing cycle of violence, poverty, uncertainty, and desperation are what bias people towards destructive habits. Can the ‘war on drugs’ be won, or is it a case of decriminalisation and education?
- There has never been an impact assessment of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.
- Nor has there been a cost benefit assessment, or any attempt to compare its effectiveness in reducing the societal, economic or health costs of drug misuse with alternatives, such as decriminalisation of drug use.
The Costs of War On Drugs
“The ‘War on Drugs’ has been an abject failure.”
“Prohibition is costing lives, as well as billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. It has created a situation in which some of the most marginalised people in our society are committing crime to fund their addiction. A fresh look at our drug laws is the first step towards a sane, evidence-based policy.”
“Addiction has to be approached primarily as a health issue, not a criminal justice issue. Emphasising punishment rather than treatment is expensive and counterproductive.”
“Our drug laws are over 40 years old We therefore have no idea whether current drug policy is an effective use of public money or whether money is simply being thrown down the drain.”
- The most recent (for the year 2003/04) Home Office estimate of the annual social and economic cost of Class A drug use in England was £15.4 billion.
- The most recent Home Office research estimated that between a third and a half of all acquisitive crime is committed by offenders who use heroin, cocaine or crack cocaine. There are no equivalent figures for Class B and Class C drug use.
- An estimated £4.036 billion of the cost of drug-related crime is the criminal justice costs of arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning drug users.
- The remainder are ‘victim costs’ of crime It is estimated that fraud accounts for more than a third of Class A drug-related crime costs, totalling £4.888 billion.
- Burglary accounts for more than a quarter of the cost at £4.07 billion followed by robbery at £2.467 billion and shoplifting at £1.197 billion. The cost of drug-related arrests is £535 million.
- The research by the Government into the total economic and social costs of drug use failed to include the cost of the drug strategy itself, which according to the 2002 drug strategy was £1.344 billion in 2003/04. This budget was spent on prevention, enforcement of drugs laws and treatment.
- Therefore, the charitable think tank Transform estimates the total cost of Class A drug use (heroin and cocaine) under prohibition in England and Wales in 2003/04 was £16.785 billion.
- A 2013 study which evaluated the costs and benefits of introducing a licensed and regulated marijuana market in England and Wales concluded that the most plausible result of reforming marijuana’s legal status would be a net benefit of £100-£415 million and that, additionally, the tax intake would be £400-£900 million.
- Over half of the people in prison are thought to have serious drug problems.
- Rates of cannabis use by young people in Britain are amongst the highest in Europe.
- Across England and Wales, only around 7% of drug stop and searches end in arrest. As a result of almost 550,000 stop and searches for drugs in 2009/10, only 40,000 people were arrested, wasting police time and resources.
- The legal status of drugs has little effect on people’s decision to use them, as research by the Journal of Substance Use has shown.
- An investigation by the drug charity Release in 2012 looked at 21 jurisdictions that had adopted some form of decriminalisation of drug possession. Overwhelmingly, the research showed that such an approach does not lead to an increase in drug use and that, by not criminalising those who use drugs, there were improved outcomes in terms of employment and relationships, reduced stigma, and people were less likely to enter or re-enter the criminal justice system, creating significant financial savings.
- The UN Office on Drugs and Crime admits that the war on drugs has had terrible ‘unintended’ consequences.
Make the production, sale and use of cannabis legal?
Despite the much emphasised negative publicity, cannabis has long since being known to heal. In fact recent findings have shown cannabis oil to destroy cancer cells in cancer patients which in some cases appears to have left patients cancer free. Click here to sign the petition (deadline 21st January 2016). Click here to sign David Hibbitt’s petition (cannabis laws for terminal patients). Also see the Gerson Cure for a non-orthodox alternative for treating cancer.
Questions are now being asked as why to why the government are delaying medical use of this medicinal herb, at very least, people should not be criminalised nor made to feel criminal for using it, especially to heal. Moreover, legalising cannabis could bring in £900m in taxes every year, save £400m on policing cannabis and create over 10,000 new jobs. A substance that is safer than alcohol, and has many uses. It is believed to have been used by humans for over 4000 years, being made illegal in the UK in 1925. In some parts of the world hemp was also seen as a competitor to the timber trade, hence it is argued that big logging corporations played a hand in influencing the criminalisation the hemp plant. The above videos by Thomas Szasa and Carl Hart suggest that the whole criminalisation causes more harm than good, is used as a platform to coerce poor communities, in particular, laws against crack and to some extent weed reflect racial inequality.