I have not previously written about drugs here, but goodness knows there is reason to raise the topic, even though we now have the climate to worry about.
We tend to be very loud when we talk about drugs. It’s a big issue. Parents worry about their children and/or grieve on behalf of a brother or colleague whose child actually fell prey to some addictive poison. Then, of course, there are the endless discussions about whether or not a substance is addictive chemically or psychologically.
There are those of us who maintain that drug addicts need help, others who clamour for their imprisonment and others who would rather see them dead.
The war on drugs imposes harsh sentences on dealers and mules, but as we all know, those who actually thrive on drug trade – the kingpins, as it were – are rarely caught. They are too rich and very much too ruthless and powerful.
Those who pay the greatest price for the war on drugs are the innumerable murder victims in Central and South America, innocent by-standers for the most part, but also judges, human rights activists and even priests.
Tax payers in Western countries also pay a great deal without realising that what they are paying makes no dent in the amount of cocaine and heroin that is brought into our countries, the astronomical sums our kids pay for the stuff, and the fabulous profits enjoyed by the kingpins, whether they live to all appearances innocent lives here, or far away.
I put to you the plight of a town in Southern Europe where registered unemployment is 32.4%. I must add that those who are not eligible for unemployment benefits may see no reason to register, so the real number of unemployed will be much larger. What I’m saying is that many young people in such places see no future for themselves. They have to live with their parents, cannot form their own families and should not have children. They cannot go on vacation, cannot buy a car or anything else, for that matter, and tend to grow listless. They give up. Those who were young when the financial crisis broke are nearing middle-age now, and still unemployed. Turning to drugs is in a sense an act of despair, a form of slow suicide. Putting these people in prison is probably totally ineffectual.
On the other hand, you have societies in rich countries such as in Scandinavia, where many kids turn to drugs out of boredom or peer pressure. I’m not sure putting them in prison would help either.
There is no doubt that the war on drugs has been a total failure, but there is no consensus as to the alternative. So we continue dedicating the best part of our policing efforts to it.
Personally, I believe that the drugs problem can and should be solved. Doing so, however, would require a completely different approach. I’ll leave it there for now.