You know, sometimes you have to reconsider whether you might have been wrong about a politician. For some time now, I have written that Micheál Martin’s leadership of his party was both underwhelming, and likely to result in Fianna Fáil being hurt at the next General Election, because the voters tend to remember their grievances. I thought it might take some work to turn this ship around.
But what if…… the voters are all just too high to remember their grievances?
Tánaiste Micheál Martin has signalled support for a decriminalisation of drugs, saying he backs calls from his own TDs for a health-led approach.
Two Fianna Fáil TDs, including the chair of the Oireachtas justice committee, said the war on drugs is not working, and there must be a legalisation of drugs in this country.
Recreational drug users could be able to access their substance of choice in a “off licence”-style outlet, in a bid to control the make-up of the drugs and limit the ability of drug gangs to make vast fortunes from their illegal trade.
On the merits, there is an argument for this policy, though how strong it is really comes down to a matter of personal interpretation. The case for it is that by decriminalising drugs, you would at one stroke wipe out the business of many criminal gangs. You would gain a new source of tax revenue. You would, with proper quality standards, end the tragic cases that periodically crop up where somebody loses their life because they’ve consumed something made in a warehouse somewhere, in too close a vicinity to rat poison. The state makes cash, the criminals lose it, we are all a little bit safer, and, as an added bonus, the state trusts us a little bit more to make our own personal decisions. Sounds great.
But, at the same time: Legalise something, and you will get more of it, not less. Mr. Martin, it seems, wants to make drugs available in “off licence style” outlets, dotted around the country, and local towns, where people can go in on a Friday night and buy a few grams of whatever takes their fancy. Hard as this may be to believe, there are in fact a significant cohort of people in this country who do not use drugs precisely because it is against the law, and they fear the consequences either of detection, or of buying something unsafe. Take those deterrents away, and drug use will inevitably rise.
The argument in favour of decriminalisation is that criminalisation does not work in many cases, and that people seek drugs out anyway. I find that deeply unconvincing, and entirely absent of any evidence – it is an argument that entirely ignores the great preponderance of law abiding citizens who do not do things when they are illegal.
Then there is the harm argument. Drugs are illegal, after all, precisely because they are harmful. Cannabis is generally smoked – and we know what Mr. Martin’s attitude to smoking is, and why. But beyond that, long term cannabis use is linked to far wider long-term harms, ranging from depression and melancholy, to paranoia, and even outright schizophrenia in some cases. Sure, one joint is not going to do that to you, but not everyone has the self-discipline to stop there. I will not recount the harms caused by other drugs, like Cocaine or Heroin, for the sake of brevity. Look them up yourself, if you are unaware. These things are bad for you.
Then there is the fact that drug gangs are unlikely simply to pack up and go home, after shaking Mr. Martin’s hand and saying “fair dues, you got us”.
No – criminals being criminals, they will simply continue to supply that which is illegal, whether it be those drugs not yet decriminalised, or newer hallucinogens. Given that the tax take on drugs is likely to be high – presumably higher than the tax on cigarettes – they will also just offer the same products for a lower, tax-free, price. Just like they do with cigarette smuggling, which presently is estimated to cost the state €264m per year – with a similar sum going into the pockets of smugglers. This fact also rather undermines the “safety” point.
As to the argument about personal freedom, well, forgive me if I don’t fall off my stool laughing. This is the country, after all, under Mr. Martin’s watch, that has jacked tobacco taxes to unheard of levels. It is the country, right now, where the Government is considering banning flavoured vape juices for vapers, and slapping cancer warnings on bottles of wine. It is also the country where you can’t use your supermarket points to buy alcohol, by law, and where the price of alcohol is deliberately set by Government at – I kid you not – a level designed to be unaffordable by the poor, who are seen as more likely to drink.
We often use the phrase nanny state, because the state treats us like children. Well, Mr. Martin wants a nanny state that looks after your kids in all respects, but then slips them some cocaine and LSD as a reward.
That kind of nanny, really, should be fired.