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Why drug users shouldn’t be criminalised

November last year saw two states in the US vote to legalise, regulate and tax marijuana. So far, the sky hasn’t fallen down. The streets haven’t fallen into a post-apocalyptic world of stoned zombies shuffling through cities in search of munch.

So what has actually changed? On the surface nothing, with most sources agreeing that around 1% of the population of the US admit to smoking weed daily and that this number is remaining stable.

Will the UK follow the US and change our drugs laws? In the case of marijuana it seems so.

According to the Guardian, an influential cross-party group of MPs has concluded that, after a year scrutinising UK drugs policy, it is clear to us that many aspects of it are simply not working.

They urge David Cameron to immediately set up a royal commission to consider all the alternatives to Britain’s failing drug laws, including weed decriminalisation and legalisation. The road to weed legalisation is slowly being paved, after all there are no scary statistics to prevent it. Who ever heard of someone overdosing on weed?

The law has a habit of being written in black and white, you’re either breaking it or you’re not. This take seems to be failing when it comes to drugs laws, in particular with those who use illegal drugs recreationally.

The fact that the personal use of illegal drugs results in the criminalisation of the user represents a hypocrisy on the part of our government. Every year around 9,000 people die from alcohol-related deaths, whilst over 100,000 people die from smoking-related deaths. Surely the law should reflect these figures, yet it clearly doesn’t, with illegal drugs claiming around a relatively low 2,500 lives a year.

Objectively it seems that illegal drugs don’t pose much of a health threat when compared with tobacco and alcohol. Although perhaps the figures would look different if Tesco offered a crack aisle in the same way they do an alcohol. It’s extremely hypocritical of the government to deny the use of recreational drugs and allow the use of other, more damaging drugs.

Public opinion would quickly change if you had to inform employers that your lung operation was due to smoking, or that your liver biopsy was the result of too many nights in the pub. Yet people have no right to know how much you drink and smoke in the same way that a criminal record will show illegal drug use.

The criminalisation of drug users is an ambiguous area but the government is getting splinters from sitting on the fence. It is time to either ban the use alcohol and tobacco (not likely given how much money is raised through taxation), or follow legalise, regulate and tax all currently illegal substances and trust the public for once.


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May 2022
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