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Posted by on Mar 10, 2013 in In the news, Law | 6 comments

Police drug blitzes – just say “No!”

Over the weekend, the police in Australia’s biggest states have arrested a large number of people at music festivals in Sydney and Melbourne. It seems that the arrests in what amount to drug blitzes have been mainly for possession of ecstasy, amphetamines, and cannabis. In explaining these arrests, one police officer has warned members of the public not to buy such drugs because they are provided by criminals and so their purity cannot be guaranteed, thus creating additional safety fears. That is, at least my paraphrase of what he was trying to say – check the story for yourself. Of course, these fears would be reduced considerably if there were a legal market in the drugs concerned, with ordinary regulation to ensure that buyers are getting a pure product.

There is much debate about the dangers of these sorts of drugs, but adults are capable of getting a fair idea of the dangers for themselves and of making their own decisions – factoring in, of course, the degree of doubt. In doing so, they can also gain information about the benefits. It is a safe bet that many of those arrested are experienced with the drugs concerned and well versed in the pleasures that they can provide. In those circumstances, they ought to be able to make up their own minds about what risks they are prepared to take to obtain the expected pleasures. Why are they being infantilised by laws that assume someone else (politicians, anti-drug lobbyists, etc.) knows better than they do how they should live their own lives? This kind of state paternalism is unnecessary and offensive, and it should not be a basis for public policy relating to the criminal law.

All the existing prohibitions of drugs like these should be repealed, and an ordinary regulatory framework should replace them to give consumers confidence that they are receiving what they are paying for and to address the dangers of people driving or carrying out other dangerous activities in drug-induced states that reduce their abilities. In other words, these drugs can be treated much as we currently treat alcohol.

Even while these infantilising laws remain on the statute books, it is a waste of public resources to put large police numbers into enforcing them. Surely the police have priorities that relate more directly to protecting us from risks that we have not consented to. If they really and truly don’t, perhaps we don’t need so many police, but I doubt that that’s the situation.