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London's dopey mayor
Decades late to the decriminalisation party, Sadiq Khan seems blind to its dangers
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, apparently intends to begin effectively decriminalising cannabis and other “soft” drugs in the UK’s capital city.
The Telegraph reports:
Under-25s found with Class B drugs in some boroughs will be offered speeding course-style classes or counselling instead of arrest, under a pilot scheme to be launched.
The boroughs of Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich will be subject to the rules of the new scheme, with police officers told not to arrest young people caught with cannabis, ketamine or speed. Offenders will instead be taken back to their family homes and kept away from police custody.
To which I have two reactions: is Sadiq Khan crazy? And: so what’s new about this policy?
For class B drug decriminalisation is not only crazy but has been the de facto policy of many UK police forces for years. Indeed, the explosion in both hard and soft drug use that’s taken place is largely the result of this blind eye that the police have increasingly turned to drug use and to cannabis in particular.
The police have done this for two reasons. The first is that, through a combination of failing to understand the dynamic of the drug trade (hint: demand drives supply, and there is never a neat distinction between drug users and “Mr Big” drug dealers because drug users repeatedly turn into dealers) and exhaustion at failing to get on top of it, the police simply gave up trying.
The second, which fed off the first, was that the police increasingly bought into the staggeringly irresponsible, sinister and idiotic legalisation propaganda with which largely Open Society-backed outfits came to dominate western discussion of the issue (as I wrote on many occasions over the years).
This propaganda was parroted in Britain by the useful idiots of the Great and Good who dominated parliamentary select committees, the medical establishment — as I wrote here — and was even infiltrated into the British government by a “fifth column,” a story that I myself broke in 2003 and which I revisited here (the original seems to have vanished from the net).
The result was that drug law enforcement gave way to “harm reduction”. But “harm reduction” meant accepting drug use rather than taking measures to stop it. That meant more people taking drugs, which meant more harm being done to more users and to the society around them. And to facilitate this, the harm done by drugs was persistently mis-stated, underplayed or sanitised by the propagandists and their well-placed patsies.
First, “prohibition” was said not to have worked with alcohol and so was doomed to fail with narcotics. But prohibiting a substance which was considered generally acceptable was always bound to be much more difficult than continuing to prohibit substances which were generally considered dangerous (the 18th and 19th century indulgence of opioids was an aberration that led to very high rates of harm and mortality). Moreover alcohol, whose unlimited use has caused enormous harm, is hardly an advertisement for the unlimited use of substances which will add enormously to that existing harm.
Second, both decriminalisation and legalisation were said to reduce drug crime on the grounds that users would no longer have to commit crime to fund their drug use and the drug barons would be deprived of their black market. This ignored certain key facts: that the only way to avoid a black market in cheaper or stronger drugs would be for every drug to be available to everybody free of charge; and that drug users commit violent and other crime not just to obtain drug supplies but because of the effects of the drugs on their brains and behaviour.
Third, the situation in places which have liberalised drug laws, such as Portugal or American states like Colorado, has been regularly misrepresented.
In Portugal, which is repeatedly held up as a glowing example of liberalisation, the situation is considerably more complex than as presented by glib libertarians. Although Portugal decriminalised drugs some two decades ago, and drug use there has stayed relatively low compared to other countries, a number of researchers have shown that it is facile and misleading to assume cause and effect. As this article in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy reported last year, Portugal’s shift to a public health approach was balanced by a subsequent shift again towards criminalisation over the past decade with
an increase of punitiveness targeted at drug users, including criminal sentences of jail terms.
In Colorado, which legalised cannabis, a number of experts have declared a public health disaster. One emergency room doctor, Karen Randall, reported in 2020 a “horror movie” where every shift brought in a patient who was screaming and vomiting uncontrollably with cannabinoid hyperemesis. Another ER doctor reported a huge number of patients with cannabis-related psychosis — teenagers of 17, 18 or 19.
Other drug use was up too:
Methamphetamine use was up 143 percent, opiates were up by 10 percent, and cannabis was up by 57 percent, according to data from the ER drug screens over the past seven years.
“If you pump a community full of drugs, you’re going to have to expect everything that’s associated with them. You’re going to have to expect the crime, addiction,” Randall said.
And the terrible effects of marijuana on brains and behaviour — the frequency with which violent criminals turn out to be cannabis users, the rising tide of cannabis-linked psychosis, the increase in addiction and the way it fuels demand in turn for class A drugs —have been ruthlessly downplayed, dismissed or ignored.
In his book San Fransicko, a devastating account of the way radically “progressive” policies have caused a social catastrophe in California of rampant homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction, the liberal writer Michael Shellenberger writes that his previous support for decriminalisation has been upturned by the facts he has observed on the ground.
It wasn’t true, he found, that drug offences were the main reason for the enormous numbers in jail in America: it was instead the increase in violent crime. It wasn’t true that people used drugs because they were poor and homeless — they were poor and homeless because they used drugs. And it wasn’t true that decriminalisation reduced drug harm. As he writes:
“Even if trafficking enforcement decreased, like it did in Portugal,” said criminologist John Pfaff, “illegal drug markets would still be forced to rely on violence to resolve disputes”. Indeed, prostitution and violence are ever-present in the open-air drug scenes in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
“We are seeing behaviours from our guests that I’ve never seen in thirty-three years,” said Rev. Andy Bales, who runs the largest homeless shelter on Skid Row in Los Angeles. “They are so bizarre and different that I don’t even feel right describing the behaviours. It’s extreme violence of an extreme sexual nature”.
People are not dying from drug overdose deaths in San Francisco because they’re being arrested. They’re dying because they aren’t being arrested.
And yet here comes London Mayor Sadiq Khan, several decades late to the drug decriminalisation party but still intent upon adding to its toll of death and destruction.
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