Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Tuesday, 17 August 2010


Way back here Mrs Rigby mentioned that Portugal decriminalised the use of some drugs. On 1st July 2001
... a nationwide law in Portugal took effect that decriminalized all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Under the new legal framework, all drugs were "decriminalized," not "legalized." Thus, drug possession for personal use and drug usage itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm. Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offence.
And the results of this innovative law were looked at not only the Cato Institute but also by both Time Magazine and Scientific American five years later, in April 2009. According to the Cato Institute
The data show that, judged by virtually every metric, the Portuguese decriminalization framework has been a resounding success. Within this success lie self-evident lessons that should guide drug policy debates around the world.
Now, it would seem that there may soon be a sensible debate about decriminalising drugs in Britain. The Chairman of the Bar Council, Nicholas Green Q.C. fired the opening salvo, followed by a supporting article from Professor Sir Ian Gilmore who suggests that Cocaine should be legal. Mrs Rigby is interested to see that Lord Norton has taken the time to make a comment, writing on Lords of the Blog and, within the comments there it would seem that Baroness Murphy accepts that
We simply haven’t got our response to drugs right yet.
Britain isn't alone in 'not getting it right yet', if we were then there'd be no need for the EU agency, called the EMCDDA - European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction - which is in Lisbon. The agency's site tells us that
Illicit drug use and trafficking are worldwide phenomena that threaten health and social stability. Statistics show that around one in three young Europeans has tried an illicit drug and at least one of our citizens dies every hour from a drug overdose. ...
This gives an indication of the scale, and the tragedy, of modern drug use.

Mrs Rigby's gut instincts accept that prohibition doesn't work, except to drive money towards the unscrupulous and encourage illicit, illegal and sometimes dangerous trading in banned items. History tends to reinforce this opinion - beginning with (as Mrs R recalls from a comment somewhere or other) what was supposed to have happened in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were told they could do whatever thy liked - but must not to touch the apples.

Britain has the strictest gun laws in Europe - but these laws haven't kept illegal guns from our streets, with tragic consequences. We know that the Puritans were unhappy with the way Britain was being run, so went off to America and then we got a Puritan regime led by Cromwell who was so, umm, successful in enforcing strict rules and regulations that
By the end of his life, both Cromwell and the 11 major-generals who helped to run the country, had become hated people. The population was tired of having strict rules forced onto them.
And, of course, in the last century "Prohibition" in America gave the world Al Capone - referred to as
America's best known gangster and the single greatest symbol of the collapse of law and order in the United States during the 1920s Prohibition era.
Maybe he was 'liked' because
He was the first to open soup kitchens after the 1929 stock market crash and he ordered merchants to give clothes and food to the needy at his expense
These days, a little more than 80 years after Capone was charged with tax evasion, the modern prohibitionists are having a field day. We're heckled and harangued, bullied and threatened, by so-called 'health professionals' who tell us we should all be eating, drinking and living 'healthily'. Yet, despite all the rules and 'advice', we're also told we're in the middle of an 'obesity epidemic', cancer rates aren't exactly plummeting and nor are deaths from so-called 'lifestyle' illnesses - which now includes diabetes.

The latest wheeze to make us all behave in such a way that we'll all live for ever is to threaten withdrawal of medical care from the 'unhealthy' - completely forgetting that 'healthy people' don't tend to see a doctor until they stop being healthy by falling ill or breaking something, and every single thing we do is a lifestyle choice.

So, when the same 'professionals' tell us off for taking naughty drugs not many people listen - especially kids, who know they're immortal. There's overload, it's all too much and anyway for some people taking drugs might be the only way they think they can actually control some aspect of their lives.

If education were the key then there would be no drug problem, because schools have been preaching the anti-drug agenda for donkey's years - starting when children are infants.

Prison doesn't seem to be the answer either - long jail sentences don't seem to deter either dealers or users. One gets put inside, another swiftly takes their place.

So, maybe it is time to be innovative, and follow Portugal's lead. It's worth looking at, surely?

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