Saturday, February 26, 2011

Democracy and the war on drugs

The Arab world wants democracy. It seems like an unstoppable force. This is perhaps unrealistic, because the end of cheap oil is making everything expensive and democratic regimes are also going to feel that. But at least the people have the safety valve of the ballot. This would work better if terms were shorter, like Australia’s 3 years and America’s 2 (for the House of Reps).
But many countries are going backwards because of the corrupting influence of drug money: most noticeably Afghanistan and Mexico. It is essential to take the profit out of selling drugs, and there is a natural way to do that. Drug pushers start by providing drugs cheaply, then make their profit from those subsequently addicted. Making it illegal for addicts to get there drugs is highly counterproductive. Here’s the alternative:
  • Continue to ban the supply and sharing of drugs, with severe penalties particularly to the supplier, but also to anyone receiving or possessing;
  • Allow addicts to register;
  • Registered addicts can receive supply, for their own use only, from a government channel;
  • Supply is guaranteed, not requiring immediate payment, so addicts are not forced into crime;
  • For more dangerous drugs, users might be required to consume under supervision.
This will remove the financial incentive for drug crime. Rich addicts will still get their drugs illegally, but the big market for poor addicts will be largely eliminated. The cost saving will be immense:
  • End the war on drugs;
  • Remove the malign influence of drug barons on politics in many places;
  • Getting into contact with addicts in this way will enable cures in many more cases.