Last month a group of MPs and peers gathered in a room, had a conversation and concluded that contrary to years of strictly enforced laws, it is in fact our human right to take whatever drug we please, whenever we please.
The eyebrow-raising admission came in the form of a report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform who cited Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the rights to “private and family life”) as a potential defence for drug users facing prosecution.
The issue has inevitably divided opinion and has arguably raised more questions than it answers. The debate surrounding the prohibition of certain recreational drugs – specifically cannabis – has been in the media spotlight for some time now, prompting the discussion of the ethical issues with preventing an individual from consuming something that many would argue harms no-one but themselves.
Laws exist to protect and preserve our society. However, current drug laws often do the opposite of this and instead go some way towards helping to protect and preserve a lucrative illicit drugs market – the implications of which are far worse for society than mere drug use.
They also mean that billions of pounds every year goes towards funding highly complex criminal enterprises that in many cases will also be active in the illegal arms trade and human trafficking.
On top of that there is the issue of free will which was raised in the report. What right does a government have to prevent fully grown adults from choosing which substances enter their body? Many would argue that a government has an obligation to protect its citizens. However, if any one of those citizens doesn’t want protecting, it doesn’t seem fair that they should be punished for that – especially when any potential harm will only be inflicted on themselves and no-one else.
On the opposite side of the debate are those who argue that drug users put an enormous strain on the NHS and are therefore financial detriments to society. If you want to follow that line of argument though, then you must also believe that alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy diets should be outlawed by the state.
More to the point, those who want to take drugs will take them anyway. The availability of recreational drugs has increased massively in recent years and we’re currently seeing people taking party drugs like ecstasy on a scale similar to the drug’s heyday in the 90s.
With so many people taking drugs and the assumption that a government has an obligation to protect its citizens in mind, would it not make more sense to legalise certain drugs so that they can be regulated?
We so often hear of unnecessary deaths caused by people taking a substance believing it to be one thing not particularly harmful like MDMA, only to find it has been cut with something deadly. This sort of thing wouldn’t happen if the drug was sold legally over the counter and children wouldn’t be able to get hold of it like they can and do now.
I’m not for a moment suggesting that we click our fingers and make all drugs legal overnight. Yes, on a philosophical level it’s difficult to agree that it’s fair to prevent people from doing as they choose with their bodies. But on a practical level a society where you can walk into a shop and legally buy heroin and meth is a frightening thought.
We just need to adopt a sensible attitude towards drugs. People are always going to take drugs so let’s make sure they can do it safely. Drug users aren’t bad people and they definitely aren’t doing anything wrong, they’re just committing a crime.