I suppose I should open this blog post with posting my personal knowledge on drugs. I have never taken them, no politicians answer of ‘I had a toke once but I never inhaled’ – I have just never done drugs. It has never interested me. So take my views with that knowledge out there.
Sensible debate is something that isn’t conducive to politics in democracies. It is often about who can shout the loudest and who are are voting against and not for. It is one of the large drawbacks of politics and it saddens me deeply. Listening to opposing viewpoints and evidence and coming to your own conclusion is one of the best things about being human. I don’t surround myself with people who agree with me as that would be boring. I enjoy actually talking with people who have differing points of view.
One of the big discussions that is starting to once more makes waves is how to deal with drugs. Following a fierce internal battle, Norman Baker the report Drugs: International Comparators published and if you don’t have the time to read the whole thing, here is a snapshot of the conclusion – our drug policy doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for decades. This is not the biggest surprise in the world but it is good to see a study actually state this.
The man who fought to get this published was Norman Baker, who resigned yesterday in essence because his boss Teresa May wanted a Conservative Home Office and not a coalition one. He said this last week:
“The Liberal Democrats believe drugs policy should be based on evidence, not dogma or the desire to sound tough. If you are anti-drugs you should be pro-reform.
“For too long successive governments have been unwilling to look at the evidence. This comprehensive report shows that other ways of tackling drug addiction and supply can save lives and cut crime.
“It’s time for a radical change in British drugs policy. The fact is we should spend more time and effort cracking down on the Mr Bigs’ and criminal gangs who traffic drugs than users and addicts who should be helped to recover, not put behind bars.”
It is immensely hard to read the report and Baker’s words and with an open mind actually disagree with him. Polls on the subject are relatively mixed but whilst the overall numbers are split down the middle on how to deal with the drug issues, the problem is the majority of those who vote are still in favour of a hard line on drugs. As long as this is the case then politicians whose primary objective is power will pander to these people.
Political parties in general want to get into power to carry out their agenda, however it is hard to get into power and to do so you have to not appeal to the widest possible electorate but the widest possible electorate…who vote and therein lies the biggest problem. Not everyone votes. In fact those who are least likely to vote are often the most disenfranchised and the unhappiest believing that their views aren’t taken aboard by politicians and they are right – because they don’t vote and the circle is complete.
To have a sensible discussion on real subjects in this day and age is always going to hard. We live in a 24/7 rolling news cycle world and the broadcasters and other media outlets want to attract viewers and readers and you don’t do that by opening up to actual discussion. You do that by shouting the loudest or sounding the toughest. Tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime goes down well with those who don’t actually want to see the real world for what it is. This is why I admire Norman Baker so much for trying to get this discussion out there and trying to engage with people on this important topic.
I want to live in a country where politicians make decisions based on evidence and not rhetoric. This is the dream. I won’t sit here and say I know exactly what we should do on drugs but I do know that what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working. I also firmly believe that adults should be free to make their own decisions on how they live their lives as long as it isn’t at the direct detriment of others. I would maybe hark back to education and educating people on drugs and if they still use to use then that is their decision.
One thing though is very clear to me. Those who are addicted and want to get off should be helped and not treated as criminals. We all make mistakes in life, some more serious than others I grant you, but everyone deserves help if they reach out for it. We shouldn’t give up on members of society just for making mistakes. Rehabilitation is by far the best way to fight addiction and until the moment a government sees this then I doubt we’ll see any significant progress.
The Lib Dems have made a step on this and are talking very loudly and proudly on this matter and I praise them for that. It is just a shame that many won’t listen because they’ve already made their minds up about the party because of past issues and that shows that many vote because of emotions and not because of policy but that is a story for another day. For now the Lib Dems are trying to bring real topics to the forefront of the discussion and for that we should all be grateful. I just hope people actually engage and not just dismiss because of emotions.
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