31 August 2010

Government Acknowledges a Key Anti-Prohibitionist Argument

A Home Office press release from 19th August (don't say that this blog isn't at the cutting edge of political comment! *ahem*) gives a bit more detail on the legislation that will enact a temporary ban on legal highs (my emphasis):

The government will introduce new legislation which will enable police to confiscate suspected substances and the UK Border Agency will seize shipments entering the country. The penalty for supply will be a maximum of 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine. Possession of a temporarily banned substance for personal use would not be a criminal offence to prevent the unnecessary criminalisation of young people.

This is significant: the government has acknowledged that a drug offence has a negative impact on (young) people's lives and is taking steps to avoid unnecessary criminalisation. This is accepting that there is credence in one of the anti-prohibitionist arguments.

In a way, this raises more questions than it answers: Why is it OK to criminalise suppliers to "send a clear message", but not possessors? And why is prosecuting drug possession necessary criminalisation for some substances, but unnecessary for others?

Anyway, regardless of the answers to these questions, the temporary ban on legal highs remains a deeply illiberal authoritarian measure: it will persecute those who import and sell potentially safe substances. Chemicals will be found guilty until proven innocent at the whim of the Home Secretary of the day. It goes against the Lib Dem manifesto commitment for an evidence-based drugs policy.

But at least this bad law's cloud has a silver lining.

1 comment:

Jason (HomeGrownOutlaw) said...

Good piece Duncan. I spotted this too and pointed it out on the Your Freedom site.

It makes little to no sense that they have acknowledged this as a good course of action to "legal highs", and yet, comparatively safer substances still receive the same punitive measures, this could backfire with regards to the health issue at hand. If laws are there just to "send messages" then I fear the decriminalised substances will take precedent over the ones that carry penalties. Russian roulette all over again.