Drugs and drink are not the same thing
No, a few glasses of Chardonnay (ugh) are not the same thing as heroin, cocaine or cannabis, and nobody said they were, or suggested that drinking wine would or could lead to the fake exaltation produced by some narcotics. Pay attention, you at the back.
One of the cleverest propaganda tricks of the drugs lobby has been to confuse legal alcohol and illegal drugs. As it happens, if I thought alcohol could now be banned, I'd be in favour of banning it. Since I saw a kind, talented, witty and honest colleague carried, screaming and with his trousers soaked in his own urine, from my first newspaper office, thanks to alcohol, I have not had much time for those who imagine it is harmless. I've seen plenty of other evidence, in the years since, that it can and does do terrible things to people and families. If I thought his downfall, and that of many others, could be prevented by a legal ban, then I would give up my daily half bottle of wine and count it well lost.
Regrettably, it's too late. Alcohol is part of our culture and I doubt if even Sharia law could stamp it out (actually, Sharia law has failed to stamp it out in Pakistan, where the elite drink like anything). Quite why its existence should be advanced as an argument for legalising other dangerous poisons, I really cannot see. And despite the claims of the druggies, most people in this country haven't taken drugs, and it is not as common as they say. Illegal drugs can - unlike alcohol - still be stopped.
The point, by the way, of fierce laws against drug possession is to give pliable and weak people a good argument to refuse to buy or take drugs.
Nor did I say that drug-taking was wrong and harmful solely because it hurt the individual, though it does. I stipulated the terrible harm that it could do to the drug-taker's family and neighbours, friends and colleagues, and by implication to the society in which he lives. One correspondent cites J.S. Mill's 'On Liberty' as an argument for drug taking. I do not think Mill would agree. Norman Dennis (a proper socialist), of the Institute for the Study of Civil Society, retorted (In the 'Salisbury Review’) to the 'libertarian' pro-drug arguments of Frances Cairncross as follows:
"The sovereignty of the individual is not Mill's only principle. He says just as firmly that 'whenever there is a definite damage or a definite risk of damage, either to [another] individual or to the public, the case is taken out of the province of liberty and placed in that of morality or law"
Dennis accepts that Mill excluded alcohol from this when he wrote, but adds that the application of his principles depends on the circumstances of the time. "He was specifically concerned with an increasingly powerful Victorian public opinion, demanding and securing more and more elevated and rigid moral controls from the community and the state".
In an age when the leader of the Tory party does not deny that he is a former cannabis smoker, that is hardly our position, and, as Dennis argues "Oppressive morality scarcely exists and British teenagers are now the heaviest drinkers, smokers and drug-takers in Europe. The most effective argument today for freedom to take drugs is that it is impossible for either public opinion or the police to do anything to diminish drug-taking, and that therefore the legal and moral towel should be thrown in, in defeat and despair. That is the complete opposite to Mill's argument for liberty in 1859."
He also quotes Mill's more apposite warning, that civilisation can become "so degenerate that neither its appointed priests or teachers, nor anybody else, has the capacity or the will to take the trouble to stand up for it."
I hope this provides a partial answer to those who claim they cannot understand how I can be against identity cards and in favour of punishing possession of cannabis. Drug abuse destroys clear understanding, reasoned debate, self-discipline, responsibility and therefore morality. Where morality is weak, the state must be strong, intrusive and oppressive to keep order.
Where the use of narcotics becomes common, society has to resort to increasingly repressive measures to function at all. Mandatory daily drug tests for bus drivers, and surgeons, anyone? Because that's the sort of thing that will follow soon after drugs become as prevalent as alcohol. Drug abuse also dulls reasonable discontent with the wrongs of society, and makes people easier to oppress and enslave. It's a way of avoiding the responsibility we all have, to compare what exists with what could be, and doing what we can to make things better. It is the enemy of liberty, just as it is the enemy of reason and conscience. Oppose it.
I'm formulating my reply.