‘And I am the Drug Policy Alliance’…

I’m often quite happy to miss the ‘news’ on main stream television, particularly when I read of interviews and exchanges such as the recent ‘debate‘ between Fox News and the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Alliance has just released a rather poignant video highlighting the need for a rational, evidence-based and research-informed approach to drug policy. Rather than focusing our efforts and resources on criminalisation and incarceration, we should re-focus our attention on a human-rights based approach to drug use and policy. I fully embrace this approach, which is not at all surprising given what I do for a living.

A smattering of viciousness and derogatory language from Mr O’Reilly and his co-host Megyn Kelly highlight their inability to understand the issues at stake and how damaging and unhelpful the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has been and remains.

Thus, the message in the Drug Policy Alliance’s latest video was completely and utterly lost on them. In addition, their segments (three, that I could find) were not based on intelligent debate, but on rhetoric and unsubstantiated claims, many of which are simply false.

Drugs have been legal and regulated in several countries to varying degrees for many years now. I spend about 25% of my time in the Netherlands these days, and there is very little in the way of ‘drug-related crime’. In fact, within the last year or so, I was told by Dutch that the state was forced to close prison facilities because they did not have enough prisoners to fill them. That is, prisons were sitting empty rather than bursting to capacity such as those in the US. Think about that for a moment.

John Stossel, also from Fox News, quite rightly made the point to Mr O’Reilly that prohibition drives the behaviour underground. Indeed. The prohibition of drugs has worked much the same way as the prohibition of alcohol—people will find ways around the law and will go to great lengths to hide it from the authorities.

The real shame in driving behaviours underground is that even if an individual does wish to seek help for dependency or any other medical and/or social issues, they are less likely to do so if they believe they run the risk of incarceration or any sort of reprimand. Thus, any programme designed to reduce drug- or substance-related harm, such as needle-exchange programmes, are less likely to reach them. In an age of HIV, this represents a tremendous shortcoming and travesty.

I support and applaud the Drug Policy Alliance in their efforts to advocate for a human-rights based approach to drug use. And I fully support an end to the War on Drugs.

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