Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Drugs and the cowardice of the politicians

The outgoing head of the Royal College of Surgeons (Ian Gilmore) has called for decriminalising illicit drugs. This follows on the furore a few months back when the then Labour Government's drugs advisor Professor David Nutt said much the same thing. The response from the political class has been the usual moral posturing. I suspect three things:

1. There are a lot of people (like Gilmore) in important public positions (lawyers, doctors, politicians, even policemen) who hold these views in private but are reluctant to say so in public (it is interesting that Gilmore waited until his resignation before "coming out").
2. The politicians believe that public opinion will not tolerate liberalisation of the drug laws and are panic-stricken at the idea that they might be depicted as "pro-drug"; as an irrational knee-jerk reaction they resort to primitive denounciation of "drugs". It is partly electoral calculation, partly stupidity, and partly simple cowardice.
3. Public opinion is moving very slowly but is ahead of the politicians on this (A recent NOP poll showed 37% in favour of cannabis legalisation with 12% "don't know". The % of MP's prepared to say they favour cannabis legalisation is far short of 37%). Eventually in a decade or so the politicians will follow public opinion...

The argument is not about whether drugs are "good" or "bad". It's simple economics. If there is a demand for them, and they are illegal, criminals will supply (an often dangerously adulterated) product on the black market.


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