Earlier this week, I was walking down the road with a couple of bags of Labour Party leaflets when a woman from a drugs project approached me with a clipboard. She asked me lots of questions about drug-related crime and drug-related violence and drug crime policing; she even asked me if I had a drink or drugs problem. Then she collected all the usual data about age and ethnicity and favourite sexual position. Most of my answers were “don’t know” because I didn’t know.
What was most surprising to me was that, when she ended by asking me what possible solution I would suggest to drug-related problems, I shocked her.
“License drugs,” I said.
She, a woman half my age, responded with a horrified (and non-scripted) “What? All of them?!”
“Yes,” I said, “especially the hard ones.”
Then I pointed out that almost all of her questions had had nothing at all to do with the effects of drugs themselves, but with the illegal activities of drug users and dealers, and that the only negative effects I had experienced had been the result of drunk people trying to pick a fight with me on their way from being kicked out of places serving booze, and that most of the drugs we had been talking about did not promote aggression in those who consumed them.
I should add that I don’t believe that the licensing of drugs would “solve our drugs problems”. I just think that its a possible solution to the worst of them. I also believe that the supervised legalisation of drugs would be, in one sense, regressive: the burden of such a change in the law would fall on the poorest and most disadvantaged—as it usually does before a mood-altering substance is prohibited. That is, those of us who are better off would have less of a problem with drugs; those of us who are worse off would have more of a problem with drugs. My instinct however is that the total problem would get smaller.
It’s not a policy that’s going to appear on a Labour Party leaflet any time soon though, and it’ll never appear on a Conservative one.