Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The law of supply and demand

A new report says that British police are losing the fight against drugs - this is usually a preamble to someone else calling for illegal drugs to be legalised as criminal penalties clearly aren't working.

The Commission suggests that traditional crime-fighting tactics are simply not working and that the £5.3bn British drugs market is "too fluid" for law enforcement agencies to deal with.

The trouble with the fight against illegal drug use is that it concentrates on the supply rather than the demand. The argument that you can not defeat it by enforcement so you may as well legalise is trite nonsense and proof of that is the way that drink-driving was tackled.

Drink-driving was once as socially acceptable as drug use is today. The difference between how that was tackled as opposed to the fight against drugs is that the police and courts were tough on the users, not the suppliers, and through intense media pressure drink-driving went from being socially acceptable to being shameful - and selfish - behaviour. This pressure on the "end user" rather than the supplier is what led to drink-driving becoming far less prevalent than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

But the fight against drugs focuses almost entirely on the supply rather than demand. Drug use is considered socially acceptable - even "cool" - and that has to be the first target of the fight against illegal drug use, but with illegal drugs in commonplace use by media luvvies this is unlikely to happen without a sea change in that industry. Of course, that sea change could easily take place if the government were to enforce it - but they appear to lack the will or courage to do that.

So when you see things like this you'll understand why the police are losing the fight against drugs. If the demand is there the supply will follow. The police and courts should not just be tough on those who supply drugs, but equally tough on those who use them - especially tough on those in high-profile positions. Repeatedly letting the likes of Kate Moss, Pete Doherty, Amy Winehouse and the Tetra-Pak billionaires off with cautions is exactly the wrong thing to do.

We'll never eradicate drug use, but we could easily reduce it to significantly lower levels. Kill the demand and the supply will stop. It's simple.

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