Saturday, July 21, 2007

Smoke Without Fire

Causing Long Term Mental Problems?
Perhaps the most tabloid inflated piece of irrelevance of the last week was the sequence of revelations over NuLab minister's revelations over drug taking in their university days. We might all have had a chortle over the Drugs Cabinet, Stoned Office and the new Home Secretary, the Right Honourable Jacqui Spliff MP, but frankly who gives a damn? There is material aplenty to bash the Home Office for, but compared to the succession of disasters a sequence of Home Secretaries have presided over in their dog-eat-dog contest to beat their predecessors in the blinkered authoritarianism and limited competency stakes, whether or not they skinned up at university is pretty small beer.

We're in an age now where for a new generation of ministers, it will only be the immensely dull who won't at least have considered the odd toke while at university. I suppose that's why the only surprising revelations were that Alistair Darling and Ruth Kelly had also tried a spliff, although in the revolting Kelley's case someone had probably just told her it was something new to put in the censor for high mass. At the other extreme the recent revelation that the dull
David Miliband was clean, while Hazel Blears had experimented, as well the older news that Caroline Flint had too, were real dog bites man stories, and in the latter case could explain a lot if she has continued in the habit.

Slightly more nauseating, as highlighted by The Thunder Dragon is the fact that whilst they had all experimented on 'a few' or 'several' occasions, almost everyone claimed not to have enjoyed the experience. For the record, I have consumed cannabis on a fairly regular basis, either once or twice per year, and I have known some people who have not enjoyed any form of illicit drug. That said a slight majority did, and those that didn't usually never tried it again.

So what are we are to assume from these various ministerial pronouncements? That they were too soft in the head to withstand peer pressure to try again? Not likely, in fact, on educational record most seem to be among the brighter of lights on Gordon's team of all the talentless, even if intelligence has in true NuLab style not brought wisdom. Or should we just assume that they think the entire British public is stupid enough to believe them in their pointless politically correct lies? Yes that fits a lot better.

To Legalise or not to Legalise?
Drug policy has always been difficult for the sensible wing of libertarianism that I like to think I am part of. Part of me really doesn't give a damn if these ministers go off for their summer holidays in a couple of weeks and openly roll one up in whichever freebie villa or yacht they happen to find themselves. I've lit up one evening and been as compis mentis as ever the next day, perhaps even more so as I do tend to ultimately just fall asleep much earlier than I do under the influence of other more legal substances.

On the other hand I do acknowledge that there are a set of serious social ills that stem from drug usage, and these do, on many occasions, cross that boundary line where the exercise of one person's liberty's impinge seriously on those of others. I'm also sure that these problems are getting worse, not better.

I think there certainly is truth in the claim that some of the 'softer' drugs become much more powerful over time, or at least that more powerful variants have become available. I can't think of anything that I have smoked in this country that has left me completely incapable but having had a rather regrettable incident with a spiral staircase in Amsterdam I do know there are plenty of things out there that could be called 'just a joint' that could make oneself a hazard to yourself and others. That said trying the same variety again in the safety of my hotel room was a lot of fun.

In that observation, I think is part of the answer to the moderate libertarian's dilemma, and at last I think I have a personal policy on the legalisation of drugs rather than a 'mmm...that's a tough one'. Fine then, let's legalise pretty much all drugs other than the most serious of class A drugs. Let's take the advantages in seeing the end of the illegal trade and focus scarce resources on these most destructive of substances. Let's have a sensible minimum age for consumption as we have with tobacco and alcohol and come down like a ton of bricks on anyone who pedals to those too young to fully think through the consequences of their actions. But let's add just one more very specific rule - that consumption of these substances must take place either in the privacy of a private home, or at premises designed for and dedicated solely to that one purpose.

Society accepts, or at least tolerates almost any type of sexual behaviour these days, but that does not convey with it an acceptance that it should take place in public, and that others should be subjected to others exercising their liberties. What goes on behind closed doors in private homes, or at a pinch, in premises dedicated to the purpose is a different matter. So it should be too with the consumption of narcotics. People don't (usually) expect to be subjected to the sight of people loosing control, and thereby awareness of the impact they may be having on others, at the peak of sexual ecstasy down at the local pub (no, not even on a Friday night at the Base Camp), and nor should they expect to be subjected to people out of control through artificial chemically induced highs.

So go home, enjoy a spliff, or sex, in the privacy of your home and nobody really has the right to give a damn what you get up to, and even less to prohibit you from doing it. In fact, why not do both...there is something to be said for it you know.

No comments: