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In a significant victory against the hugely expensive and massive failure of the war against drugs, initially announced by disgraced president Richard Nixon in 1973, Colorado became the first place in the world to legalise the sale and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes yesterday. Beating the US state of Washington and Uruguay by a few months, it is expected many other states will follow over the coming years.
It was over six years ago I first posted an article on another blog on the subject of legalisation, and almost three since I posted it on this site. Though one article, read by a few thousand people at the very most, cannot take credit for this huge victory, I take some pride in the arguments for legalisation I made at the time, which are now used by many others.
In drawing attention to the social, tax and employment benefits that would accrue through legalisation, set against the huge waste of taxpayers’ money and human resources the war against drugs has cost, I demonstrated it was the war on drugs itself that had become the real problem.
Far from stemming the tide of drug use, the forty years since Nixon’s declaration have seen drug consumption, crime related to drugs, and profits realised from drug crime spiral to unbelievable heights. Money obtained from dealing in massive quantities of drugs has financed terrorism, sex slavery, pornography, and the illegal arms trade, to name but a few. Drug barons have undermined democracy, corrupted law enforcement agencies and been complicit in hundreds of thousands of murders. The vast majority of deaths connected to drugs are caused by crimes associated with industrial scale drug dealing, rather than drug use itself.
But this is just the first battle won in the war. Governments the world over should follow the lead of Colorado. Legalisation is not giving state approval for the use of marijuana, it is a belated recognition of people’s rights to enjoy their free time how they wish, as long as they don’t cause harm to others, instead of criminalising them. More or less in the same way the laws regarding alcohol and tobacco recognise those rights already in most countries.
But it shouldn’t stop there. If governments are serious about taking control of drugs markets away from ruthless international crime syndicates they have to tackle the more thorny subject of decriminalising the use of harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine. This will be far less popular. Nevertheless, proper control, with a view to weaning addicts off their habits and away from the criminals, who exploit them, would have immediate positive effects on a lot of neighbourhoods now riven with drug addicts and drug crime. By reducing the need to steal, or commit other crimes, simply to support out of control habits, previously rundown, urban environments would become safer, and more pleasant places to live.
To read more details with many links to news stories, facts and figures, click onto The Myth Peddlars – the war on drugs has failed.
Happy New Year Colorado!
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