Friday, 7 December 2012

Bye And Bye, Indeed

No "War on Drugs" has ever been fought, whether in Washington State or anywhere else.

We need a single category of illegal drug, with a crackdown on the possession of drugs, including a mandatory sentence of three months for a second offence, six months for a third offence, one year for a fourth offence, and so on. Within a context in which each offence, of whatever kind, carried a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or of 15 years for life.

Hugo Rifkind and I were born in the same year, and, although I have never taken any illegal drug, his Spectator article a couple of weeks ago, predicting the sale of cannabis at off-licenses within 10 years, certainly took me back. It is on the website. Nineties people, do take a look. Perhaps with some Britpop on in the background. Or maybe something by the Spice Girls.

However, working as I do with undergraduates, I am afraid that it is simply out of date. Among the younger generation now, a very few people take a large amount of drugs, but everyone else never touches them. The people who might occasionally have had a spliff or two at parties no longer exist.

Illegal drug-taking has never been normal, and it is now very abnormal indeed. But we now have a rising generation the overwhelming majority which is not prepared to be bullied into silence. With any luck, by no means only on this issue. It will be fascinating to watch all of this pan out over the coming decades.

Illegal drug use is now a small and declining minority interest. But one that does an enormous amount of social harm. Like so very many expressions of the "free" market, which cannot exist in general but not in drugs, prostitution or pornography, just as, for example, there cannot be the unrestricted movement of goods, services or capital but not of labour, i.e., of migrants.

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