A petition has been garnering support in these past few days where ordinary citizens are campaigning for Parliament to prohibit the sale of hard drugs and confer strict penalties on those who do distribute hard drugs. Many families and citizens seem to support this policy due to the fact that young people these days are increasingly becoming more addicted to these drugs, sometimes with fatal effects. This has become the occurrence with Daisy Whithed, a young girl who died from overdosing on MDMA. I give my condolences to her parents, who started this petition. However, we must ask ourselves: has criminalising drugs worked?
A look back into the history of world politics will show that many governments have attempted to ban and criminalise sale, which ended up hurting those who were consuming as well. Let’s look at the War on Drugs in the United States. The criminalisation of drugs was intended to be a crackdown on the smuggling of drugs that caused the crack epidemic in the 1980s and the ongoing opioid epidemic. This policy saw the widespread arrest of people caught possessing hard drugs, irrespective of whether they desired to consume it or whether they desired to distribute it. This led to many people who had no intention of distributing drugs and who were, instead, addicted to them being arrested for virtually no reason and sentenced. Most of these arrests were disproportionately minorities who had become victims to the addictiveness of hard drugs and possessed, not to distribute, but to consume. This is just one of many examples throughout recent world history where government crackdown on drugs caused more issues and more incarceration for innocents.
Criminalising drugs will cause the same troubles here. Impoverished communities will be harassed constantly by police for housing drug dens. Addicts who were caught possessing would be imprisoned and their record blighted permanently. A blackened history means forever being unable to get jobs and earn money; eventually, they will have to live in the streets or off of welfare. Even then, banning and criminalising will not do much damage to the drug trade. Smugglers are quite experienced in transporting goods under the noses of government officials. Also, as the industry is cracked down upon by the government, more legitimate businesses will fall at risk and will either be forced to close down, be arrested, or engage in black market activity.
Overall, the premise of the petition is desirable: prevent our children and our citizens from being exposed to hard drugs and ruining, or even surrendering, their lives and livelihoods because of them. I understand, it’s difficult to see this happen in our nation. But criminalisation would have even more ramifications in terms of wrongful arrests, targeting of minority and impoverished communities, and increased black market activity. The side effects of this bitter medicine would be too hard for Britain to swallow.
This piece was written by /u/RMSteve, a Libertarian peer