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The Real Cost Of The War On Drugs

Last night I went for a drink to unwind with my friend at the end of what had been quite a tough day at the office. I am feeling much the worse for wear today, and, for the fiftieth time, have told myself I will stop drinking once and for all and keep up with the much healthier habit of smoking cannabis. 

It is rare these days for people who do use cannabis regularly to really think about what will happen to them if caught. I know that I would likely receive a slap on the wrist. There are people growing in their homes out there, who could receive anything from a small fine all the way to months in prison, for the exact same crime, just because they have a different judge in a different area of the country. 

The topic of judges reminds me of a man I met last night at the pub. He was in his mid twenties and looked well, a normal middle class man in the middle of the country. I was playing pool when he asked my friend and I what we studied, assuming we were students because we live in a student area. I responded that I had long finished university and was glad for it, it hadn't been a particularly useful way to spend my time. He replied that he knew how it felt because he had taken 5 years to get into his second year. When I asked how he managed that, he very frankly replied that he had spent a year in prison. 

‘A year in prison’ were not the words that I had expected him to come out with. I asked if he minded if inquired as to what he was put away for and he told me that he was busted at a festival with a lot of drugs and was charged with intent to supply. He was given 1 year and was lucky enough to be sent to a prison that ‘didn’t have the problems of islamic extremism’ and that you hear horror stories about other prisons. 

1 year in prison for some drugs. He had admitted that he did intend to sell them, but it wasn’t for profit and it wasn’t part of a larger organisation. This was a normal lad who just so happened to have taken things a bit far. 1 year in prison for what he did, didn’t seem fair to me. What really got to me was the fact that he said ‘no one goes into prison and comes out a better person for it’.

Essentially, he was saying that prison doesn’t work. Not only for drug offenders but for most offenders. If we actually want people to change their ways, and if we want to reduce the harm of drugs, then we have to first reduce the harms that prohibition of drugs like cannabis does. This man and the people who would have used his drugs would have likely been safe when they took them. Society likely wouldn’t have had a problem with them. The only harm done by drugs here were the fact that someone went to prison because of them. 

That’s the real cost of the drug war and why prohibition of cannabis needs to end.

April 22, 2016 by Gareth Arnold

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