Drugs policy – incompetence or intentionally bad?

Sometimes it’s a narrow line between evil and incompetence. The government’s handling of the Psychoactive Substances Bill is a case in point. As with all drugs policy in the UK, it is entirely driven by poorly thought through morals, not science. That’s incredibly damaging to people who find themselves using drugs in despair, but great for criminal gangs. And since most drug addicts are driven there by social problems that the government are working hard to increase (poverty, depression, unemployment), cracking down on drugs is more consistent with government policy than helping people get off them.

In that spirit, the government has decided to ban any substance that has an impact on the brain. Since even the briefest thought makes it obvious that that is ridiculous, the government have appointed MP Mike Penning to oversee the bill, and banned the governments own drugs advisory board from contributing to the discussion.

A number of people have raised objections to the bill – for example the church objects because it would ban incense. It would also ban coffee, alcohol, chocolate and nutmeg, along with anything else that is mood altering. To counter that, the government proposes to list every single thing that you can consume in one way or another that is not banned. Except, according to Mr. Penning, none of the substances will be banned if bought in the UK – only if you buy them abroad. And realistically the government won’t get every OK substance on the list, but claims that discretion will be used (e.g. would they send a toddler to jail for eating a worm?). Except we know from experience that a law which is intended to be used with discretion today gets abused pretty quickly – e.g. numerous abuses of the anti-terrorism laws, such as using them to stop and search people for train spotting.

So, we have a bill that is going to ban everything, overseen by someone who really doesn’t understand either drugs policy, the law, or indeed what he has written in his own bill (and please do read the main linked article to read more about that – it’s a very funny read). Did David Cameron appoint him to run this because he doesn’t care if it goes wrong, or because he wants it to? Either way it’s nicely evil. Mwhahaha.

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