Alex Massie

Drug Dealers in Favour of Prohibition

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What does left mean these days? And what, for that matter, about right? Increasingly the divide that really matters is between the liberal and the authoritarian. When it comes to drugs, for instance, Melanie Phillips is an authoritarian. Well-intentioned, I'm sure, but an authoritarian nonetheless. This means that, whether she or the other Drug Warriors like it or not, they have more in common with drug-producers than consumers. Indeed, the Drug Warriors might be said, objectively speaking, to be furthering producer interests at the expense of the consumer.

This might help explain why marijuana producers in California are appalled that the state might, by referendum, legalise pot this year. Theyre right to be: if entry barriers are lowered it stands to reason that established producers will lose out and that their healthy profits may fall even though they'll no longer have to write off a proportion of their crop that's lost to raids, blundering, robbery or whatever. Current laws amount to a kind of rent-seeking that protects organised crime and discriminates against both the consumer and the small producer.

This is obviously offensive for any number of philosophical, moral and economic reasons. If Drug Warriors were really motivated by health concerns - witness the rush to ban mephedrone - then they'd favour legalisation since nothing would do more to spur innovation and the development of high-buzz, low-risk narcotics. But they don't really care about that because what they really object to is the buzz itself. Hence their determination to prosecute a pointless, expensive, futile, counter-productive, grubby, shameful war that won't be won. It's about scolding people and controlling their choices and never mind anything else.

In this instance the battlefield is drugs* but that's just one front in the struggle between Liberals and Authoritarians.

*Like most people I've hardly touched an illegal drug since I was at university. I have, then, no pressing or personal interest in the matter.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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