To see this story with its related links on the guardian.co.uk site, go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jun/04/getting-high-is-a-human-right
Getting high is a basic human right
Saturday June 4 2011
Peter Wilby well expresses the arguments for why the "war on drugs" has not only failed but actually makes the problems created by drug use worse (Many agree, none act: to ease untold misery, legalise drugs [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/01/ease-human-misery-legalise-drugs" title="], 2 June). What he doesn't consider is that the "war" is not only wrong in practice, it is wrong in principle.
The right to intoxicate is a fundamental human right, as basic as the rights to worship or to engage in dangerous sports. It's not the state's business to tell us what to do with our leisure as long as we are not hurting others.
Virtually every society throughout history has used intoxicants; there is something truly grotesque about our leaders who on the one hand enjoy their own drinking and smoking, and on the other use the vast revenues they take from taxing these two drugs in order to pursue and imprison those whose taste is for an intoxication different to theirs.
? While agreeing wholeheartedly with Peter Wilby's piece on the benefits of legalising personal drug use, I must protest against his slur on blind bluesmen. Blind Lemon Jefferson, born blind; Blind Willie Johnson, blinded as a child; Blind Blake, blind at birth; Blind Boy Fuller, blinded as a teenager by accident or disease; Sonny Terry blinded as a teenager; Blind Willie McTell blinded during childhood. No evidence of meths consumption there.
? The Home Office's predictable reply to calls for legalisation of the possession of drugs (The drug laws don't work, they just make it worse: campaign calls for reform again [http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jun/02/drugs-drugspolicy" title="], 2 June) was: "Drugs are illegal because they are harmful ? they destroy lives and cause untold misery to families and communities."
So does alcohol, gambling, and unemployment caused by spending cuts. Drugs are not illegal because they are harmful, they are illegal because no one in the government or opposition has the courage to assess this issue rationally and not from the perspective of the shrieking tabloid press.
? The law has failed to stamp out drug abuse: this is given as a reason to legalise it. Should we also decriminalise murder, burglary and rape, all of which persist despite the best efforts of the law?
Various things have been decriminalised since the 1950s. Almost all of them have become more common and more extreme with the removal of both criminal sanctions and social disapproval. In the case of the acceptance of homosexuality, divorce and the general sexual revolution, I'd say that this made us a better society. But would we be a better society if people consumed more drugs?
Most drug users know they are unwanted and have few prospects. Or else they are successful but under enormous pressure to stay at the same impossibly high level. Surely these are the social evils we need to fix.
? Dope is the feedstock and pension fund of the judicial system, which is as dependent on drugs retaining their illicit status as the narco-gangs are for maintaining their business model. Try a reverse prohibition ? a 10-year window without criminal sanction for possession and licensed and taxed production ? to assess the relative merits of crime- or health-led policies.
? I have multiple sclerosis and have asked my consultant for Sativex on several occasions, only to be denied, or should I say deprived of it (GPs criticise NHS decision to deny MS patients cannabis-based drug [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/may/30/ms-patients-denied-licensed-cannabis-drug" title="], 31 May)? Doctors have even told to me to keep it quiet that cannabis has helped to relieve my symptoms. I have found that a pattern of attacks two years apart has stopped when I commenced using the drug.
The postcode lottery is so frustrating. I have been told of another patient in the same county as me who has the drug on prescription, but I have been denied.
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