22.6.08

Ban alcohol! If you believe in drugs prohibition, why not?

Truth Telling E-zine - 2 January 2006

2005 was a bad year for the drugs legalisation squad. The columns of journalists like Johann Hari are yellowing, the Legalise Cannabis Party’s few remaining ‘No Victim No Crime’ pin badges are being flogged at yard sales and the progressive White Paper on the semi-legalisation of cannabis has been U-turned and amended to death. The resurgent anti-drug tabloid headlines made supermodel Kate Moss and indie-rocker Pete Doherty the inadvertent couple of the year – they began accumulating enough column inches to cover the Great Wall after Kate was pictured – shock horror – rolling up a fiver to snort the white stuff into her skinny nostrils.

But millions awoke to 2006 with a dry mouth and a thumping headache, with a pint (of sweet H2O) sitting by their beds. From the teenagers being carried into casualty to have their stomachs pumped to the vomitathons every Friday and Saturday night in our streets all over the country – we have to accept there is a national problem with booze. But with all these things happening, where are the prohibitionists? Everyone who believes that cannabis, coke and heroin should be driven underground by countless police hours and government initiatives (which comes out of your own pocket, by the way) – why not ban alcohol too?

Of course, everyone knows that, although the effects of alcohol can be real and destructive – prohibition is even worse. In the early twentieth century, a policy of alcohol prohibition was tried in the U.S. – but few people stopped drinking. What it did was hand over a hugely lucrative industry to armed gangsters, who drowned the country with guns, corrupted the police and claimed more victims than the alcohol itself. A prohibition policy was also tried in 17th Century Cromwellian England, with the same adverse effects.

The same truths apply to global drugs prohibition. Ever since the disgraced Richard Nixon unleashed the ‘War on Drugs’ little over thirty years ago, a violent and na├»ve campaign to “eradicate” drug supply and usage has done nothing but increase usage by a factor of almost 50. At the minute, drug supply comprises a stonking 8% of world trade. In Colombia, 40% of the economy is dependant upon drugs trade abroad; the country has been crushed by the US-imposed constraints on South America – leading to a corruption of both the political and legal systems.

Right now, 2,500 British troops have been sent to secure (or, destroy) one of the only sources of income for some of the poorest people on earth. In the Afghan province of Helmand, opium fields yield just enough to feed the families of the farmers who manage them. British Army Commanders told one newspaper that they expected opium farmers to stage a violent uprising, when their livelihoods are wrecked and they face starvation.

In a recent ICM poll, 69% of the British public agreed that “[drugs] supply should be regulated by the government or other drugs companies” – in a word, legalised. So the next time you are arguing with a prohibitionist, ask them why they are not in favour of banning alcohol. I guarantee they will give these reasons: “Millions of people already use it, it can be used in moderation, prohibition does more harm than good” – and the same can be said for cannabis, coke and heroin.