First up, via Australia (Thanks Evert) we have The decriminalisation (or even legalisation) of drugs by Chris Berg.
It doesn’t take more than a moment of thought to recognise that the rulings on which drugs are legal or illegal are governed by no particular logic.
No theory from medicine or philosophy or psychology demands alcohol, tobacco and caffeine must be legal while marijuana, cocaine, and heroin must be prohibited.
Whether a drug is illegal is nothing more than an accident of history. Drug laws were not written dispassionately by a panel of the best medical and ethical minds in the world. The laws bear no relation to the damage those drugs could cause or their danger to society â€“ they were not written to minimise harm or protect health.
Quite the opposite: the current schedule of drugs in the Western world has been driven by politics, expediency, prejudice, and sometimes outright racism.
But the biggest cultural barrier to such reform is the current status illegal drugs have. In the sort of circular reasoning that only popular discourse can manage, the prohibition of drugs is mostly justified by their pre-existing legal status. Why are certain drugs prohibited? Because they are illicit drugs.
But that status has been set by politics and moral panics, not dispassionate evidence-based risk assessments. Drug prohibition carries the legacy of the ugly politics of the past. Once we realise that, we may start to rethink the justice of a war that is, in truth, not against drugs, but against drug users.
Then, in Canada, we have our friend Eric Sterling trying to advise them from going down our destructive path. Canada is repeating U.S. mistakes on drug sentencing
As Canadian senators meet this week to vote on comprehensive anti-crime Bill C-10, they need to reflect upon the U.S. experience and reject the billâ€™s entrenchment of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offences in Canada. As has been the case in the U.S., mandatory minimums can easily go wrong in Canada, too, in ways entirely predictable. Exploding court and correctional costs for resource-strapped national and provincial governments is one likely calamity that Canadians can expect from mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
In 1986, I played a central role helping the U.S. Congress write the federal mandatory minimum sentences. Soon we saw the devastating effects that this legislation forced upon unprepared court and correctional systems.
But the political temptation to promote harsh-sounding sentences was too seductive in 1986. Ironically, no opponent of mandatory minimum sentences has ever lost re-election on this issue. We have learned that imprisoning countless marijuana gardeners has no impact on organized crime leaders, doesnâ€™t keep drugs away from kids or kids away from drugs, and actually increases criminalsâ€™ profits by driving up prices.
Countless lives have been ruined due to incarceration and criminal records for non-violent drug offences. Based on this irrefutable evidence, and the repeal of mandatory sentencing measures in numerous states, I can see only one reason why Canadaâ€™s federal government and some provincial governments would want to go down this wasteful route: the belief it is good electoral politics to parade as tough on drugs and crime. At this time of fiscal limits, taxpayers canâ€™t afford the luxury of expensive and symbolic anti-crime measures.
Parliament must embrace only policies that are effective, respect the taxpayersâ€™ pocketbook and are evidence-based. Mandatory minimums fit none of these important criteria.