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« Editorial: A solid win for David Davis | Main | 'Debate-winner' Davis closes gap on David Cameron »

Comments

 Ted

Barbara
It's not about being hip - it's about reducing the harm drug abuse does. I am not a proponent of legalisation but a policy doesn't make sense if it doesn't recognise the considerable difference between a drug like heroin compared to one like ecstasy. Assuming someone (whether me or DC) is pro drug because thay think the current policy isn't working and we should review it doesn't help getting anything discussed or changed.

You make a good point - with stringent quality controls, licensing laws, high taxation & social rules alcohol kills at at least twice more probably over ten times the rate of a black market, under the counter drug. Thats why I don't subscibe to the libertarian arguement on legalisation and control - we don't want to make drugs more socially acceptable or available.

Of the 33 deaths in 2003 caused by ecstasy, 14 of those were due not to the drug but the effects of dehydration etc, - so could have been avoided if users were better educated about its effects - but then if anyone listened so could the 35,000 alcohol related deaths due not to phyisical failures (liver, heart etc.) but to the effects of drunkeness/alcoholism : fights, traffic accidents, falling etc.

As for the facilities - I understood our policy (whether DD or DC) was about looking to better provision of treatment for all rather than the current government's incoherent approach.

Barbara Villiers

You seem to be missing the point here - it is not just about deaths - it is about psychosis. So should I tell my daughter to make sure she drinks enough or not too much water (yes, you can die if you drink too much water, and how does one tell?)but not to worry about turning into a vegetable?

There is also a class element here (yet again). Although there are middle class heroin users, most heroin users are from a different socio-economic class. A substantial number of E users are middle class so what's the message here? It's okay to penalise a member of the underclass but it's not okay to penalise a 'nice' middle class university kid?

David Cameron's metrosexual approach might fly in London but does not reach out to the rest of the country. Worse, if he becomes Leader he is already a sitting duck for any pot shots (forgive the pun) that the Government can and will take at him. Will he come over all petulant at the Despatch Box like he did on Question Time? And what about the skeletons in his closet-he obviously has some. How refresing it would have been if he had admitted it. Young people and older ones would respect that. If he becomes leader we are faced with the prospect of one of the red top rags will (and this is not a matter of if, but when) proceed to smear him, with the result of yet another leadership election and the Party being damaged beyond repair. I cannot believe that his supporters are so blind to this.

 Ted

Barabara

In earlier message I recognised that deaths excluded psychosis etc. But it still comes down to should we treat ALL drugs as identically dangerous or put degrees of seriousness on them. Ecstacy is harmful but not as harmful as Heroin. That's a good point of debate in taking forward a renewed policy.

It shows the failure of the current approach that you think class has anything to do with it. It's because the police & judicial system recognise there is a difference that the less dangerous E, Hash or Coke (drugs of choice in the middle classes) take less of a priority compared to Heroin or crack. But because they do the law becomes an ass - because it doesn't differentiate in word only in action.

On your last point George W Bush had a druggy past - he never gave details. If DC had said yes I took coke or hash or E, the follow up would have been where, when, with who. He was clear enough that he had indulged in something but that that was all he should say about it.
We are faced with the Virgin Bride choice - do we choose the unsullied maiden - DD because though he is undoubtably the next loser after Hague, IDS and Howard he's not got a past - or choose someone with a bit of history - who might win big (or might fall). Charles chose Diana over Camilla.

I'm not a London resident - I live in a small rural village with neighbours (within a house or so) who include school teachers, ex colonial widows, a lesbian couple, a peers daughter and her very wealthy husband, self employed home based business people, school sectretary who also waitresses in the evening, ex barmaid, nurse, electrician - oh and another (male) gay couple at other end of village. Rural England isn't that different - we have a more "metrosexual" approach than you'd expect.

Barbara Villiers

Ted,

How many drug casualties do you know? And would you want your child to do ecstasy? Ecstasy is as bad as heroin, albeit in a different way and I am qualified to say so.

No, he could have answered truthfully (if it was only at university) and then say he'd say no more. It can only lead one to suspect that he did use drugs more recently than university in which case I'm not so sure how fit he is to run the country. If you don't think the papers aren't busily digging for dirt already then think again. And believe me, if it is there, they will find it and print it.

Politics is not strictly about personality or charisma though that helps. David Davis is tough, yes, but engaging although not in that smarmy way that David Cameron has. I can have nothing but respect for somebody who has made a success of himself by sheer dint of will and intelligence because he KNOWS how it is for the rest of us. He was a businessman with a solid knowledge of economics, and knows how to take a few scalps i.e. Blunkett when Home Secretary and the other Home Office minister whose names escapes me. His education policy is sound as are his Home Office policies and economic strategy. He has strength of character and gravitas.

The people of this country do not want or need another featherweight and to my mind that is what David Cameron is. The era of spin is coming to an end and for the Party to want to ape Blair will be a huge step backward, like people cottoning on to a fad that's already passed.

James Maskell

I strugle to understand the justification for placing a hard drug in a lower catagory at all. Ecstacy, Heroin, Cocaine and Amphetamines are life-threatening drugs and should be viewed and treated as such. Bringing down the catagory for Ecstacy will give people the view that it isnt that bad, wich is complete rubbish.

My view is simple. Hard drugs Class A. Soft drugs Class B. Simple as that.

I think the Minister you are thinking of is Beverly Hughes...Im losing count too!

Tom

Barbara - Nice posts but I think you are on the wrong tack. The message is not the issue here - it is the overall harm. How are we going to reduce the number of casualties from drug and alcohol abuse.

To my mind you have three choices:

1. Singapore policy. Death penalty for dealers and absolute zero tolerance. It works from the point of view of making the society completely clean.

2. The middle way. This is what we are doing now. One could argue we have leniant sentances to the Singapore model. However there are huge hypocricies in this which means that we will forever be in doubt as to whether it is working or not. In fact it will never be a "success" due to resources available, a free media (Do you remember the song by the black rapper called 'I got high' which was an ode to smoking spliffs and made it to number one in about 30 countries around the world including ours.) Drugs will always be cool in this environment and people will always want to take them. We can however pat ourselves on the back for being 'moral' about it and 'sending out the right message'.

3. Legalisation. Here you remove the black market element. You tax the industry, you bring in altogether tougher and more intelligent punishments for anybody involved in black market supply, you plough huge resources into education and you have a much more rigourous drug testing system for things like mortgages, jobs, driving licences etc. You have absolute sero tolerance on the media for glamourising them. If people really want to do it then let them do it. It just means reducing the externality factors. There is no way that in the short term this will work, but in the long termThis for me is the ultimate conservative libertarian approach. But it needs a profound understanding beyond the current debate. We need 25th Century thinking for this problem because otherwise it is always going to be a problem.

If people are educated properly about this problem, it stopped being the 'cool' thing to do then people would just see it for what they are. They can be excellent, enjoyable, relaxing, they have also extended the creative range of humans in many ways as has alcohol (most notably absinthe) but just like driving a car, people should be educated about the dangers of taking them.

All of these proposals have pros and cons but the long term (and I mean generational) solution has to be three. It just needs politicians to have the vision to do it. It may be that it will take todays drug takers (the 20-40s) to make that decision in twenty years time.

I am not sure, however, whether you, Barbara are persuadable on this one

Barbara Villiers

Tom,

The lady is not for turning on this one!

Are you sure you're not a Lib Dem?!

 Ted

Barbara -
I admire DD for making a success of himself without the advantages DC had, I admire John Major for doing and David Blunkett.
Yes I have had friends who have used Class A drugs - those that used Ecstasy & cocaine seem to have normal lives now, those that used Heroin or crack have gone into squats, died or dissappeared from my knowledge. Most of those that smoked hash are OK but a couple became dopeheads - one ending up in prison. Some friends or relatives have become alcoholics - over last thirty years two have ended up in prison as a result, one threatening his wife with an illegal firearm, the other stealing from his employers.

James
There are Classes A, B or C. All drugs are potentially dangerous - some considerably more than others. If we classify drugs (and perhaps we shouldn't? - just have one class and one set of offences?) then I would expect these to reflect the harm they cause. What are the soft drugs in your opinion?

The proposal was to move MDMA down from Class A to Class B. Currently drugs are classified:
Class A drugs like heroin, cocaine, crystal meth, LSD, psilocybin, DMT, mescaline and MDMA
Class B most forms of amphetamine, barbiturates
Class C drugs like antidepressants, steroids, cannabis.

Possession of a Class A drug up to seven years for possession, maximum penalty for supplying or trafficking is life imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Possession of a Class B drug is five years and a fine, supplying or trafficking a Class B drug is fourteen years plus a fine
Possession of a Class C carries a maximum sentence of up to two years in jail; supply and trafficking carry a penalty of up to five years in jail.

I think looking at whether MDMA is Class A or B makes little difference in practical terms as courts & police already differentiate and rarely jail for possesion. It just makes drug laws look stupid if the politics drives out the science. Message we are giving to the 600,000 who use MDMA is that crack or heroin aren't more dangerous (and as I've said death rates are 1 in 73 for heroin users, 1 in 18,600 for MDMA)

Tom

Ouch. No way but having spent several years investigating gangs and the underclass in ghettos across the US and the UK I am very aware that the current problem needs a totally different approach, but it needs to go hand in hand with education, employment etc etc. While it is easy from middle class environment to work out what problems are, it gives you a totally different perspective when you see it up close.

I do know however that the misery caused by drugs is to do with 2 important factors.

1. Peer pressure and the fact it is seen to be cool and the ultimate expression of freedom and independence

2. The criminality that provides the drugs.

Neither of these will be affected no matter what policies are enacted under the current situation.

As long as these remain it will always be a problem.

It needs vision and strength and good intelligent polcies like making sure that employers know through drug testing which employees take drugs. It needs to be shown that it is not worth it to the individual. Long term attitudes will change and the idea of having a line of cocaine, would be like going to the dentist.

pigmalion

Any argument that argues legalisation of drugs, which for the purpose of this discussion we shall define as inorganic opiates (i.e. opiates that are manufactured in the modern laboratory) on the basis of addiction to alcohol or nicotine, (which we shall refer to as organic opiates), kills more and therefore costs society more, neglects the fact that organic opiates have been around for thousands of years are by the rules of probabilities unlikely to cause any mutation in the genetic make up of our society.
Most people would agree that addiction to organic opiates is a trans-genenic and as well as a social disease. But society has adapted itself to it. Mostly because it has found that the pros-outweight the cons.
With inorganic opiates, any tolerance allows for the indiscriminate experimentation on the human body with things that don't exist in the natural world. If you condone the use of drugs then you may as well condone the use of biological warfare because it kills people but it doesn't destroy property.

Tom

err...what? Just because it is within the law doesnt mean we condone it. I disaprove of smoking in front of an infant child but is that is illegal. I dont want to condone battery chicken farming but that is also within the law. I had a chicken burger today and I dont know where that came from. Am I condoning extraordinary cruelty? Dodgy argument mate. Philosophically I know where you are coming from, but from my point of view I want to see less gun crime, drugs to be seen as wierd not cool, and as a result less drug abuse. This is a practical issue not a philosophical one. The point is how do we reduce abuse. Unless you do a Singapore, illegal drugs are always going to be seen as cool when 1. The most beautiful woman in the world takes drugs as well as the entire fashion industry from where we actually get our fashion. The majority of pop stars, film stars, celebrities take drugs. The refusal of a middle class liberal media to condone the taking of drugs. These are our role models for 2. They are illegal so they will always be cool 3. They are fun and the ultimate source of losing control in a plastic society. This is the problem. I understand your argument but getting the numbers down from the 2m (that is 5% of our population) who bang yur inorganic trans mutating pills is surely better than having some poncy philosophical argument like yours

pigmalian

Then basically you are proposing that a child could posibly sue her own mother for smoking infront of her. Get Real give the power back to the parents and the teachers that have to do walk mot talk the talk.

John Sheridan

"I disaprove of smoking in front of an infant child but is that is illegal."

No it isn't.

"I dont want to condone battery chicken farming but that is also within the law. I had a chicken burger today and I dont know where that came from."

Then you're a perfect illustration of why drugs legalisation would be a disaster.

"The point is how do we reduce abuse."

Through all organs of the state sending out the same message. By saying that although drugs may offewr instant fun, that they also offer serious consequences.

Your ideas spell disaster. We've tried them with alcohol and tobacco. Our society's failure to control and manage those legal substacnes shows your argument for the pipedream it is.

John Sheridan

"getting the numbers down from the 2m (that is 5% of our population)"


That's total crap. It's 5% of a limited age band (20 to 24, I think), not 5% of the general population.

pigmalian

The fact of the matter is that our society is being eroded simply because as Prince Charles did mentioned some time ago, and was as usual criticised for doing so, our children our being corrupted by the idea of an instant fix. Namely if I become the next Kylie Minogue or Robbie Williams then all of my problems will be solved.
This prevents adolescents today from going though the natural phase in their development of disillusionment, where by the time they get to about twenty four they suddenly realise how stupid they where thinking that they were so special.
The major trauma at that age is leaving school. Most middle class kids are funnelled into University where they can begging to realise their own deficiencies. But the remainder are forced by an economy that does not offer on the job training, because it expects you to just be able to walk of the street and into the job, to look for alternatives where there are none.

Barbara Villiers

Tom,

You're talking out of your hat.

When you are as qualified as I am to discuss this properly I'll listen to you.

You can go tell that bullcrap about ecstasy to Leah Bett's parents and see where you get.

As for regular cocaine use, it impairs judgement, creates paranoia and just about makes monsters out of people.

And really, I am not concerned for Notting Hillbillies born with silver cokespoons in their mouths - I care about young people who get caught up in it and can't escape.

I just saw a tv show where a basketball coach at a high school in Harlem raised the game for his students by building team spirit, instilling pride and discipline and showing them their self worth. That is the kind of thing we should be doing - not legalising or de-criminalising drugs. About the only good idea Cameron has is to have former drug addicts come to talk to pupils at schools, though sadly, it's not original and plenty of schools already do it.

Daniel Vince-Archer

I'm probably being incredibly naive but how will downgrading ecstasy from Grade A to Grade B reduce the harm done by drugs?

Tom

Barbara - have you had one too many this evening?

Exactly how well qualified are you? I guess watching a TV show qualifies you for something but I am not quite sure what. There are lots of other shows that you could watch which might qualify you for other stuff too. Can I recommend Eastenders. It portrays real gritty life in London. You can then blather on about pub opening hours too.

Pigmalion - The point was that there are lots of hypocrisies inherant within our society. I take your points but the fact of the matter that the supply of drugs is extremely effective at the moment. It is about controlling the supply and preventing the criminal gangs from doing what they do. Long term abuse will not go higher than what it is currently as long as the accompanying policies and the correct education goes hand in hand. Look you may think this is naive but I know what a ghetto in 2005 looks like, and it is not pretty. Gangs terrorise, and the cost to society is huge. If you think big and work out the actual cost to society of our policies on drugs, including the knock on costs, there will be one hell of a big budget to spend on getting these things right, paying for the right programmes for rehabilitation, paying for the right education. At the end of the day it is about treating people as grown ups. The vast majority of harm done by drugs, is harm to the person who takes them - not harm to innocent bystanders. Yes there is the latter but there is so much more harm done by big threatening criminals creating cultures of terror in poor communities. You take away the drug income, you take away the problem. Then it is a question of people being informed about what drugs do to them. Treat people as grown ups, dont nanny.

Sorry Pigmalian my typing is piss poor. The point is that smoking in front of an infant isnt illegal so therefore you can argue that our laws are condoning that.

Barbara Villiers

Well, Tom, aren't we waspish? Just like your idol you become petulant when you are crossed. Tsk tsk.

Qualified,as in having worked with drug abusers, by the way.

What makes you an expert?

Tom

No just trying to make sense of your posts darling.

I have worked with police forces, gang units and social policy Academics across the US, South America and in the UK, made a few documentaries on gangs and the subject of worldwide distribution of drugs and just generally been very interested in the failure of our current policy on drugs.

Does that qualify for anything?

Barbara Villiers

Being a pompous twit perhaps?

Yes, I agree but I have found from experience that notching up all the hypocrisies in the world makes you go mad, and more often than not you get accused of being one yourself.
Sorry to have brought this onslaught onto you but you did take the bait.
My credials are that I'm the guy would solved the 3n+1 problem. But that appart, the road that you are looking down must at some point assume that the goverment has to sit down around a table with the suppliers and distributers and make a deal. Again I have to say get real! This isn't Rome that we are living in where the policy was "If a criminal has got what you want then do business with him".
However much you might think that the political system doesn't work, offering up wild policy decisions only works against your cause. You have to be reasonable, and not show your cards on the table before you enter the barganing room. Diplomacy is not just an art form, its a forum for discussion that makes all things possible as long as you are willing to make a change for the better.
And yes my typing is piss poor, that's because as a mathematicaian all that usually use if the the top row, the numbers.

Tom

You did ask Barbara. Pot kettle?

Pigmalian as maths guru that you are I yield to your diplomatic logic.

It maybe a rant but it stems from total frustration with the current policies on drugs. I have seen people living in absolute hell, deficated concrete jungles not fit for human habitation, no go zones and it is all down to drugs, and the gangs that control the areas.

At the end of the day it is the end that is most important to me not the means and I do not believe that legalisation will in the long run end up with more people taking drugs. I believe it will end up with less and be a more mature society for it.

 Ted

Barbara

This is an important subject and I can see you are not for turning but no need to call people who look for different and perhaps more effective solutions "pompous twits".

Read a line this morning in the press "Ecstasy can exceptionally kill but to class it alongside heroin makes the law an ass" which seems to be lifted from my earlier post; only problem was it was Portillo writing.... can I really agree with him? perhaps he's readimg this blog?

I'm lucky - I had a couple of very bad trips from pain relieving opiates after an operation which made me go all out to move to paracetamol as soon as the pain was bearable and confirmed my life choice against mood altering drugs (and against NHS hospitals as they also gave me MRSA to overcome ). But the social damage drugs cause has to be resolved and like Tom I don't see this happening - I'm not convinced by legalisation but we need a realistic enforceable approach which limits harm.

Andrew

"1. Singapore policy. Death penalty for dealers and absolute zero tolerance. It works from the point of view of making the society completely clean."

That's also policy in Iran, and most of Pakistan. Both have over a million heroin users.

Drug consumption levels are something with many causal factors, but the important thing to grasp is that government policy is a relatively minor one. There are countless examples and studies to back this up, but you only need look at the biggest pictures of all: alcohol prohibition, and the entire war on drugs. Neither has had much effect - in fact drug consumption only exploded _after_ effective criminal penalties on consumption was introduced here. To put it bluntly: there is a massive public demand for drugs, and the glorious efficiency of the free market then ensures that this is supplied. Government policy has never found much of a way to tackle that demand, while supply has proved impossible to quash anywhere on earth.

On an aside, imo the failure to grasp this tells us a lot about the psychology of our body politic - or at least that in northern Europe/USA. Why do we expect to be able to tackle such a basic issue of individual choice with the stroke of a legislator's pen, and a good dose of police thuggery? More importantly, shouldn't conservatives be against this sort of repressive nanny state behaviour? (especially when it's such a blatant failure).

Last point, which needs to be repeated again and again and again: The Netherlands have THIRTEEN times less drugs deaths per capita than we do. Repressive drug policies can't do much about consumption levels, but they certainly can cause a lot of deaths (exactly the same as happened with alcohol prohibition, where death rates quadrupled).

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