Legalising P?

Following from the shooting of Sergeant Wilkinson last week while investigating a suspected P lab, there has been some discussion around the blogs on whether we should be throwing greater resources to fight P, or legalise it – two completely opposite approaches that are both designed to take P away from the gangs.

Kiwipolemicist does a good summary of the arguments for legalising P and other drugs from a Christian perspective. The argument basically comes down to:

Drugs and alcohol are essentially the same thing, i.e. both are psychoactive substances (something that affects the mind). It is illogical and hypocritical for the government to make one psychoactive substance legal – alcohol – and outlaw other psychoactive substances – drugs. …

… the gangs  that the government bleats about get a huge amount of their power and money through the sale of drugs. The quickest and simplest way to give gangs a kick in the family jewels is to make drugs legal. …

“Drugs are harmful” you say. Yes, drugs are harmful, but that is not a rational reason for making them illegal. Cigarettes are harmful, and no one seriously proposes making them illegal; it is a double standard to support the illegalisation of drugs because they are harmful unless you also support making everything else that is harmful illegal.

Which seems to make a lot of sense initially, as this approach allows you to be perfectly consistent across all substances. Blair Mulholland talks from this perspective with regards to P. If you are interested in the issue, read the whole of both articles.

But would legalising drugs really help? Scrubone effectively pulls this argument apart.

There’s one problem with this. Pure methamphetamine is so addictive that people would most emphatically not stop after the first try. They’d try it again. All I have heard (and I even had a neighbor who was previously addicted to it) is that this drug captures you the first, or at most second time you use it and then that’s it – you’re addicted and it’s incredibly hard to get out. So if only 25% of the population try it, that’s at least 20% who are going to be addicted.

What happens then? Addicts are able to purchase it for $5, so their money would last longer – assuming that they didn’t just ramp up their addiction instead. So a year or two down the track they’ve lost everything. What do they do then?

Well, my bet would be that the portion of the population who would be addicted by that stage would start stealing. Sure, you don’t need to rob a bank to get $5. You can just purse snatch for that, or smash someone’s window or whatever. Trivial stuff.

Except that every time my window gets smashed for the sake of $5, the cost to me or my insurance company is more like $100 or more. Who pays for that? Why, I do and the jolly taxpayer who has to foot the bill for increased police to fight petty crime and people “going crazy”.

Again, read the whole article. We can’t just ban stuff because it is harmful to the user, that is why the Greens moves to ban pies and stuff in schools are ridiculous. But when something causes damage to wider society, as drugs like P do, then the correct response is to restrict them. Greater availability of substances like P could cause great harm.

There has to be a balance somewhere, on most issues the classical liberals talk sense in my opinion. But if you bluntly apply liberal principles to every single issue, you could do just as much damage as if you bluntly apply state control to every single issue.

Sometimes liberalism is the way to go. Sometimes restrictions are the way to go. We need to be flexible enough to use the solution that works best on each issue.