Alex Massie

The Mephedrone Panic is an Argument for Ending Prohibition

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Nikhil Arora at the ASI makes a good and necessary point in response to the mephedrone moral panic:

Realising the danger that ‘legal highs’ pose to their core market of young night-clubbers, cocaine and ecstasy dealers mobilised every lawyer and lobbyist at their disposal to ensure that their rivals’ products are outlawed as quickly as possible.

Quite. Nevertheless, the urge to ban currently legal drugs merely because they may be ill-used or have problematic, even terrible, side-effects will doubtless prevail. It's sad when people die from reactions to the drugs they take (or from mistakes in the taking) but those deaths are not in themselves a compelling argument for yet more prohibition.

But suppose we went the other way. Rather than try and pretend that the demand for chemical intoxication can be suppressed* focus on supply instead. If we abandoned prohibition one can imagine a situation in which the pharmaceutical companies compete with one another to manufacture legal highs that offer the maximum reward for the minimum risk. And, of course, consumers would find it easier to make an informed decision in such a scenario and we'd have endless TV ads for comparethebuzz.com (hosted by some eastern european buzzard perhaps).

Not, of course, going to happen. Eventually, and perhaps pretty soon, we'll reach the American situation in which cold remdies are actually locked away and you have to ask permission and show ID and all the rest of it to buy the stuff. Just in case you're a methhead you see.

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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