We have very little ability to produce public dialogue that would aid sensible changes in our society. I gave up any belief education could help with this two decades ago, realising our schools and universities do something else I refer to as ejukation. If you search the Internet you won’t find much sensible argument As an example, take a look at:
The main argument is a decent contribution to ‘drugs debate’ from someone we should be able to listen to as an experienced practioner in part of the problem – a cop. The argument makes good sense, but the majority of comment does little with it. I broadly agree with what is said, given the current mess. I still want to see change in policy and practice, but this would have to take into account this ‘cop’opinion.
What I would expect is some freely available database to help on fact. There is none and yet there is obviously an ‘academic industry’ at work. The following journals are only indicative – I gave up after looking at over 100 available via university subscription. The International Journal of Drug Policy; Drugs and Alcohol Today; Criminal Justice Matters;The Lancet.
One journal article on policy-making states: ‘There is a tension between the type of information source most suited to policy makers – simple, single-message, summative and accessible – and the types of information produced and valued by researchers—largely academic publications that are nuanced and complex. Researchers need to consider the sources that policy makers use if they wish their research to be utilised as one part of policy making’. So why no sensible, ‘no bullshit’ database for the public? We pay for the research – though I doubt we’d continue if we saw a lot of it!
This link gives some of the material published for free access. Most of this material is esoteric. If I was attempting to enter drugs policy as a decision-maker I would face considerable reading of books, articles and talks with many people. I already know how to do this as a researcher – something politicians nearly always lack.
Whilst it’s clear we could change from a criminal to public health approach on drugs, I would have to do a lot of work before I’d be willing to advocate such a change. All I can make out of a few days searching and reading is an absence of much of the relevant opinion and any proper definition of the problem. The most obvious definition lack is that of those people who do not take drugs and find their lives blighted by those who do.
On what I know at the moment, I’d like to see proper dialogue on a health-based approach that was also enabled with a clearer and more effective role for police in preventing anti-social crime by users and suppliers (even licensing for suppliers).
If there are facts on anti-social crime disappearing after decriminalizing possession I need to be able to find them. Moving away from vice in a manner that doesn’t just bring in worse rackets is very difficult. The Dutch BIBOB Act is an example of attempts to curb organised crime through administrative powers – ASBOs were a UK example.
My point here is not about drugs, but our lack of public dialogue based on reliable and freely available facts. Thinkingpoliceman may have made a daft estimate on cycle thefts in Amsterdam, but the numbers don’t matter. It’s through asking Dutch cops about drug-related crime that I know the Dutch for ‘fucking pain in the arse’. For that matter, they were thinking of bringing in ASBOs in Holland not long ago because of drugs and immigrant-related problems.
I estimate the cost of books and articles I’d need to get a fair grasp of what is known rather than blather in this area exceeds £2K – this is only the start. There are many unknowns – would we all start snorting coke if it was a freely available at the same price and basis as baking powder?
The possession of cannabis by someone using it to relieve pain or even to get high in a ‘private’ manner (and perhaps most other drugs) should not be a crime – and this might be worth exploration. It does not remain ‘private’ when a neighbour gets noise stress, or the habit is being funded by benefit abuse and stealing. Possession could be subject to an automatic non-criminal caution if no other criminality was involved, and be an aggravation of other offences.
We could go on – the point is surely why we can’t refer to agreed facts that have been investigated for public dialogue and law changes.