Drug policy reform has become increasingly mainstream over the last few years. There has been an exodus by those that support the maintenance of a punitive approach in favour of rational, compassionate reform.
When we’re looking to readdress the balance on one of the largest social issues of our time, how can we pitch to the last person seated and show them that they need to stand in favour of reforming our drug laws?
Knowing that statistics and numbers can be easily manipulated to suit a bias, sometimes we have to allow common sense to beat the path. Why should we support drug law reform? It’s fairly simple:
We can often lose an audience if a pitch is too niche or statistically heavy. Citing reports and references can, at best, induce a snooze and at worst enforce an already cynical mindset. We know what doesn’t work; the idealism that imbues current drug policy is only matched by the oversimplification that banning something makes it less harmful and less prevalent.
We have seen from many, many trials that large scale prohibitions are not only ineffective, but invariably highly dangerous for communities that suffer from the backlash of inflated commodity values. Plain old logic has to have a place in our drug policy debate.
When we think about the laws that bind society together, we are allowed to coldly speculate –news provides a mirror on the world, but one that we’re able to shy away from when we feel the need to close our eyes to suffering that doesn’t concern us. Those that have seen the brutal realities of a situation aren’t so easily cocooned from such anguish.
It’s fair to say that none of us are exempt from taking a share of the communal pain drugs cause. Whether non-problematic consumers, or those who suffer with addiction – or even those that have felt the life altering repercussions from the law itself. We all know somebody affected by drugs. Torment could rain down upon any family or individual at any given moment. It really could be… Anyone’s Child.
Why do we continue with models that we know don’t work? How have we beguiled ourselves to such a degree that we’re undaunted by the secondary raft of suffering that we willingly apply? Drug laws are inherently there to protect society, yet we know they perpetuate far more harm than they solve.
Taboos need to be broken. The conversations that we need to have must look towards shaking off stigmatising language. The caricature of a drug consumer, betrays the fact that there is no difference from a ‘legal’ drug user and an ‘illegal’ one. We are not dealing with ‘the other’, nor are we fending off monsters at the city gates. Those that choose to consume a different substance are no different to the folks that prop up the bar or raise a toast at a dinner party – only the perception is different.
Drug use shouldn’t be segregated into what the state allows and what it forbids. The only logical result of such indomitable segregation is to simply distort an image of those that conscionably choose other substances, and allow guilt-free maltreatment to communities, families and individuals from the law itself. Arbitrary distinctions will only serve to confuse. As soon as we grasp that drug laws essentially seek to control behaviour, and not the drugs themselves per se, then we may inch closer to the inevitable result of a balanced and fair system whereupon a non-problematic consumers of any substance can be left alone, and those that wish to seek help can obtain a range of treatments unencumbered.
As Johann Hari says in his book Chasing the Scream, and as he conveys in his stunningly crafted Ted Talk, Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong:
It’s time we employ logic to solve our illogical drug law quandary, and it’s time we all sensibly engage with what’s now become an implausible debate.
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