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British Documentary Advocates Legalization of Cocaine

Via TalkLeft.
Cocaine, a new documentary by award-winning director Angus Macqueen, will air on British Television next week over several days. Full article.

Celebrated documentary-maker Angus Macqueen spent 18 months on the cocaine trail across Latin America from the dirt-poor valleys of Peru to the shanty towns of Rio. Here he recalls the journey that revolutionised his views and explains why he believes ‘the dandruff of the Andes’ should be sold in Boots …

This journey has left me thinking the politically unthinkable. With an election looming, the Blair government has made the war on drugs a populist law-and-order priority, once again conflating the taking of drugs with the crime and violence that surrounds them. But it is the war itself that is the problem. The politicians rightly warn that demand will go up if it is legalised. Not good but not the nightmare they summon up. Neither cocaine or heroin is a cancer. In quantities it destroys your nose and is bad for your brain, but it very rarely kills – unlike that other addictive plant we can use legally: tobacco. Nor is it a direct cause of violence, like alcohol.

Let’s be honest. People try drugs, whether in the form of alcohol or pills, because they are fun. Tens of thousands of UK citizens regularly consume cocaine; hundreds of thousands more use other illegal drugs, completely discrediting the law. In his book Cocaine, Dominic Streatfield quotes the monetarist Milton Friedman: ‘I do not think you can eradicate demand. The lesson we have failed to learn is that prohibition never works. It makes things worse not better.’

Streatfield quotes the extraordinary statistics involved in fighting cocaine and drugs. Here are a couple: over the past 15 years, the US has spent Ł150 billion trying to stop its people getting hold of drugs. In Britain and the US almost 20 per cent of the prison population is inside for drugs offences. So what is left? We can muddle on or we can legalise cocaine – and indeed all drugs.

This won’t solve the social ills of poverty or inequality here or in Latin America but it would remove vast sums of money from the criminal world. We should allow the farmers to grow coca and sell it for decent prices direct to government-controlled factories which can produce a high-quality product. And then it should be sold over the counter from registered chemists such as Boots to anyone over 18 at a reasonable, taxed price that does not encourage a black market. At least then we will know it is pure. Then we must attack demand by using some of the millions saved to invest in education drives that are honest. Look how effective a generation of anti-smoking education has been in bringing the public behind stringent restrictions on smoking in public, but not an outright ban. …

The whole article is worth reading.

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