A big push is on in the United Kingdom to decriminalize the possession of drugs. Celebrities including Sting and Russell Brand have come out in the press in recent days calling on Parliament to implement this dramatic change in the drug laws.
But rest assured there will be big problems in the UK should this call for reform ever be passed as law.
The 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act currently governs these matters in the UK. The Act covers three classes of drugs: A, B and C. Class A covers the most dangerous drugs, including cocaine, crack, heroin, meth and LSD. Class B includes marijuana. Class C includes steroids and tranquilizers.
The current law contemplates both the possession of an illegal drug and the supplying of same. The penalties are obviously much harsher for those who supply drugs. The reformers in the UK are only interested, however, in helping those who possess drugs. Those who possess would presumably be simply users of the drugs.
Sting, Brand and the others argue that these users are not criminals, and should not have to contend with the justice system. Instead, these users have a health problem, like an alcoholic, for example, and what they need is counseling and medical help and advice. This is a noble concept, but this line of reasoning overlooks one very big problem: Some drugs are stone cold killers, and if society removes the single large deterrent standing in the way of drug possession, more people are likely to try drugs and endanger themselves.
Drug laws certainly contemplate protecting a person from themselves. Many individuals need this protection. One could argue that there is nothing wrong with having the freedom to experiment with drug use. We must remember, however, that many of the most dangerous drugs, like crack and heroin, are extremely addicting. Once a person tries these, there is a real chance the person could be “hooked.” At that point, it may well be that no amount of counseling or medical intervention can hope to bring the new drug user back from the brink.
So, to remove the one thing–criminal charges– that might dissuade a person from experimenting with a dangerous drug makes no sense. People do need to be saved from themselves. We would seem to be endangering a whole new group of people, those who would choose to experiment in this realm, instead of helping current drug users or abusers.
Perhaps there can be some common ground in this argument. We have seen the decriminalization of marijuana take place recently in certain states, and this would seem to be the place to start in the UK. Marijuana is certainly less harmful than the Class A drugs. Marijuana, it would seem, is not going to enslave or kill a person like crack certainly has been proven to do. Certainly it is not entirely healthy to inhale smoke, as those cigarette smokers suffering from various health issues have discovered, but on the danger scale marijuana is certainly closer in spectrum to alcohol and cigarettes than to crack or heroin.
To decriminalize crack or heroin makes no sense in the UK, or anywhere else in the world today.