Drug Laws

January 29, 2010

Scallywag (who lights my darkness) enjoys the occasional herbal cigarette which she smokes in the evening.  Then, with slavering jaws and flashing teeth, she mows a great swathe through our household economy, necessitating an emergency midweek visit to the supermarket to replenish stocks of bread, eggs and dog pellets.  But, apart from giving her an appetite that would be the envy of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, her habit does no harm whatsoever to anyone except perhaps herself.

Yet if it reached the ears of the authorities that she she was partaking of this harmless substance she could be siezed by the rozzers and hurled, with the lowest thieves, perverts and murderers into the darkest dungeons Pollsmoor has to offer.  As sceptics we (rightly) rail against the absurdities of religion, quackery and pseudoscience wherever we encounter them; should we not also shine the light of reason onto the absurdities that make their home in the statute books of our country?

I challenge anyone to give me a rational reason why the mere possession of cannabis should be a criminal act, but alcohol and tobacco, which are arguably more harmful substances,  are legally available everywhere.

But the point is not the harmfulness of the substance—there is a more important principle to consider.  Governments are constituted to protect the individual’s rights from being infringed by others; that is the social contract.  It is a principal that no law should be passed that protects an individual against himself, because that is the foundation of the “nanny state” under which individual freedom is impossible.  If an individual wishes to smoke whacky weed, snort cocaine or shoot his veins full of heroin he should be permitted to do so, provided he does no harm to others by so doing.  Having dealt with the principle let’s move on to practicalities.

“But Mark,” you say, “what about the medical bills we the taxpayers have to foot when these junkies destroy their health?”  If the drugs were legal they could be taxed as are alcohol and tobacco now, and the taxes thus collected would be more than sufficient to offset any additional public health expenditure.

The illegal drug market is demand driven, and prices bear almost no relation to the amount it costs to produce and distribute them.  There is a huge risk premium built in because the distributers (criminals) risk imprisonment if they are caught.  Legalizing drugs would take the market out of the hands of gangsters and place it in the hands of entrepeneurs where it can be easily regulated.  Drug users would be able to rely on consistent quality and acurate doses at a far lower price than they are currently paying.

Which brings us to the question of crime.  The entire industry is controlled by organised criminal networks and the users themselves are often forced to indulge in crime in order to pay the exorbitant prices demanded by the gangs.  Were the products to be legalized, one of the props supporting organised crime would be be neatly amputated, and an all-round reduction in crime could be expected.  Government (disorganised crime) would receive a revenue boost that would be of benefit to ordinary taxpayers whether or not they are drug users.  Over 1,5 million people are arrested in the USA every year for drug offenses, most of which are trivial.  Imagine the reduction in crime that would be possible if the resources wasted on drug enforcement were to be diverted to combatting real crime.

Creative Commons License
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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Private Bitch

January 18, 2010

Privacy no longer exists. With cheap data storage and lightning fast computer processing private companies and government agencies are able to assemble dossiers on you whose details, were you aware of them, would make your eyebrows curl. Every time you shop using a credit or store card the details of your purchase are recorded against your name for use in targeted advertising, or anything else the diabolical retailer mind can think of. If you visit iffy websites don’t do it while you’re logged into any of your Google accounts (Gmail, Google apps, Google Wave &c) or the web addresses will be recorded against your name by Google. Yes, they have a “privacy policy” which says they won’t divulge the details to anyone else unless they are asked for them by the rozzers or anyone else, really.

This may sound paranoid, but you cannot assume anything is private. When you are talking to someone on the telephone you have to assume your conversation is being monitored (ask Prince Charles if you don’t believe me). Your emails are subject to audit by your ISP and any government agency that asks for them. Every time you leave your home you are likely to be watched on security cameras and your voice is recorded every time you ring a call centre.

What really astounds me, though, is that people don’t care. They hand over all their details without turning a hair. I recently wanted to move my cell phone contract from one service provider to another. I couldn’t believe my ears when they asked for three months’ bank statements. Er, excuse me, bank statements are confidential information. Even (especially) my wife doesn’t have access to them, why should I give them to a bunch of strangers?

I am part owner of a small business and on occasion I trot around the neighbourhood putting advertising flyers in mailboxes. (Yes, I am one of those annoying people. If you don’t wish to know of the enormous benefits that could be yours for a very reasonable price were you to become one of my happy customers, all you need do is put a notice on your mailbox reading “No Junk Mail” and that will be respected, even though I don’t regard my flyers as junk.) What amazes me is that so few people secure their mailbox in any way. I see boxes stuffed with bills, credit card statements, tax assessments and so on all conveniently available for the taking by anyone who wants to steal your identity. People just don’t seem to realize that information is a valuable commodity.

And what about all those forms we have to fill in all the time if we want to get anything done? All want impertinent information. Why should I supply my date of birth in order to purchase a CD online? My policy is to leave out information that is not required, and to lie about anything that is required but not essential to the transaction. I have a second email address for “junk” transactions; my “real” email address is given only to family and friends. I use false names wherever possible (Margaret Thatcher is one of my favourites), fake phone numbers and addresses and if they come up with “This field is required” in something that really isn’t any of their business, I fill in “None of your fucking business”.

I’m seriously considering getting myself a second identity (I may steal it from you), building up a collection of false beards and moving to my own private island staffed with robots (the one Scaramanga had in the James Bond movie would be ideal) and opting out of the plexiglass world.

Creative Commons License
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.