I do not use drugs and I would not suggest anyone else use drugs. The world is bonkers enough without bending your mind with drugs; they are addictive, sometimes dangerous and they make you very boring at parties. Nevertheless, Jonathan Dimbleby – yes, the guy with the cardigan who presents Radio 4’s Any Questions? – last week admitted that he took cocaine when he was younger.
Cocaine is a serious drug; it’s not like he said he smoked a bit of pot and decided he loved people very, very much. Cocaine makes you jabber, and sweat and try to have sex with inappropriate people. And yet Radio 4’s cardigan man says he took it. What I am getting at is – the war on drugs, for me, is now lost. Where drugs are concerned, we’re living a lie and even Dimbleby is involved.
The War On Drugs, which is our current policy, criminalises a vast swathe of the population. Drugs are illegal. This means that if the prime minister and the chancellor of the exchequer were proven to have taken drugs they would have to lock themselves up, along with Radio 4 cardigan guy. The British government would have to operate out of HMP Belmarsh, which is stupid. That is my first problem. Almost everyone I know has taken drugs at some point, including myself. So, according to our current policy, we are a criminal nation.
Illegality instantly places the drugs trade in the hands of ruthless criminals, who adore it, because the mark-up on drugs is 3,000%. Drug users are risking their health, yes, because a small percentage of the population is genetically prone to become addicted. The drugs trade is illegal, however, so you might as well chop their heads off and say it’s over. This is fine, if you believe that to take drugs is wicked and users should be punished, which I do not. That would mean I am wicked, and Jonathan Dimbleby is wicked.
"The truth is the addict population will always remain at about 5%, illegal or not"
This is not a moral issue for me. I prefer a dope smoker to a tax evader, a casual cocaine user to a groper. It is all about public health. Who wants to see dying addicts on the streets? But if you restrict drug selling to gangsters, who make almost all of their profits from drugs, and have gutted entire nations in the developing world, you will see more death, here and there.
“Prohibition,” said Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, “is the drug dealer’s best friend.” He then estimated that illegality caused 10,000 drug related murders in the US each year, and that is before we start counting the dead addicts.
Do you remember the pictures of Amy Winehouse staggering around, with blood on her toes? Now, if she had got her drugs from a doctor, do you think she’d have been in that state?
The drugs these criminals sell are cut, which make them far more dangerous; most victims of heroin overdoses die from polluted drugs, not the drugs themselves. My friend Sebastian overdosed on heroin last year. If drugs were legal, I suspect he would still be alive today.
Legalising drug use, opposers say, would make everyone an addict. Pushers would stand outside primary schools giving free samples and the economy would stop, because everyone would instantly become addicted to heroin. There is no evidence whatsoever to support this. The truth is, the addict population (that is those who habitually use drugs) will always remain at about 5%, illegal or not. Decriminalisation in Portugal and parts of the US have shown this and also show a small fall in drug use when safe drugs are available.
A vast pile of gold is spent on the War On Drugs. Surely it would be better to spend this money on access to rehab, which is now severely restricted? I know a girl who is, frankly, dying from heroin and crack addiction, and screaming for a rehab place. But there is no money – it has gone on Don’t Smoke Pot Posters. She may well die, and for what? So we can preen on how moral we are because we are conducting a War On Drugs? Except we aren’t, because I have done them, and the cardigan man has done them. It is time for us to grow up.
Main picture credits: Rex Features
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Stylist's regular columnist Lucy Mangan is on maternity leave.