According
to a recently issued review of decades of archaeological research, humans
have used mind altering substances such as psilocybin mushrooms, opium, alcohol, etc. since
prehistoric times for both medical and spiritual purposes. However, due to the
stigma associated with drugs and the unfair associations of certain
demographics with these drugs they have remained illegal. Most drugs when
consumed safely and responsibly are of little consequence to the user and poses
no serious danger to their wellbeing.

What is
a drug?

A drug
is a substance that has an effect on the body or mind when consumed, different
drugs have different effects due to their chemical structures. For example,
psilocybin mushrooms produce euphoric feeling and audio-visual hallucinations
in its users.

Illegalisation
of drugs

The initial anti-opium laws in
the 1870s were targeted at Chinese migrants. The initial laws against cocaine
use in the 1900s were targeted at black males in the American South. The
initial laws against marijuana use, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the
1910s and 1920s, were targeted at South American migrants and Mexican
Americans. Today, black and Latino populations especially, are still subject to
wildly disproportionate drug prosecution and sentencing practices.

Failure
of the drug war

In the
late 1960s and early 1970s, American president Richard Nixon declared the “war
on drugs”. As a result, the authorities, the government, and even the U.S.
military expanded their efforts to fight illicit drugs. John Ehrlichman, a top Nixon advisor later admitted,
“Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” Blacks and
Hispanics and the “anti-war” left were the main targets of Nixons radical drug reform.
 

In 2013 a study published in the British Medical Journal, found
that in the United Kingdom, spite of efforts to limit the supply of drugs,
since 1990 prices have fallen while the purity of drugs have increased. These
trends were comparable in the United States and in Europe. The authors
concluded: “These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the
global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.” The
researchers found that the prices (adjusted for inflation) of cocaine, cannabis
and heroin fell by 80%, 86% and 81%, between 1990 and 2007 while average purity
increased by 11%, 161% and 60%, respectively.

Portugal’s success

In
2001, Portugal decriminalised the use of all drugs, they decided to treat the use
and possession of these drugs in small quantities as a public health issue
instead of a criminal one. The drugs however, remained illegal, but getting
caught with small quantities meant only a small fine and perhaps a referral to
a treatment program, you would not receive any jail time nor a criminal record.
Recent statistics show that among Portuguese adults, there are a mere 3 drug
overdose deaths for every million citizens, this is compared to 10.2 per
million in Holland, 44.6 per million in the United Kingdom and 126.8 per
million in Estonia, the average in the European Union is 17.3 per million. It
is clear from the statistics that decriminalisation has had a positive effect
in Portugal, at least when compared to its neighbours in the EU.

The success of the
Dutch

The Open
Society Global Drug Policy Program published a report showing
how Holland has maintained low rates of HIV among people who use drugs and
comparatively low cannabis use among youth, while avoiding enforcement-heavy actions
of its neighbouring countries. Their report finds:

Fewer
arrests for minor drug offenses. In the United States, someone is arrested for
drug possession every 42 seconds. Citizens in Holland, much like Portugal, do
not generally receive jail time or a criminal record for minor, nonviolent
offenses. According to report from 2005 there were 269 marijuana
possession arrests for every 100,000 citizens in the United States, 206 in the
United Kingdom, 225 in France, and just 19 in the Netherlands.

Drug use does not increase due to lighter enforcement.
25.7% of Dutch citizens claimed to have used marijuana at least once, which is much
less when compared to the much stricter United Kingdom, in which the rate is
30.2%. The United States is 41.%.

Dutch coffee shops generate roughly €400 million in
annually in revenue, however, their main purpose are for social inclusion and
public health. The Netherlands therefore invested heavily into prevention, treatment
and harm reduction.  

Conclusion

I believe that due to the evidence I have produced it
is obvious that harsh punishments for minor drug crimes do not reduce the rate
of drug consumption nor discourage drug dealers. Instead we should look into
drug treatment, harm reduction and educating the populous about safe drug use.
Countries such as Portugal and Holland have proved this, I can only hope that
the United Kingdom will be the next.

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