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May 26, 2008 | by  | in Opinion |
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Recreational Drug Use Must Be Legalised

Prohibition laws are fundamentally about preventing people from having fun. Supporters of prohibition argue that restricting access to drugs prevents drug abuse and thus reduces harm. But look around you: more than half of all adult New Zealanders have tried illegal drugs, so prohibition simply does not reduce drug use. Prohibition does not discourage people from using drugs – if anything it makes these substances cooler. What prohibition does is drive the drug trade underground, forcing pot smokers to buy from meth-dealing gangs. And although doctors are not allowed to report drug-abusing patients to the police, the climate of fear created by prohibition does frighten people out of seeking help. Prohibition encourages users to lie about their drug use in order to keep their jobs; prohibition increases rather than decreases the harms cause by drug abuse.

So why is prohibition accepted? The idea that some drugs, such as marijuana, should be totally banned comes from the mistaken belief that some drugs are one hundred per cent BAD. No drugs are completely bad – however, all drugs are dangerous. Some (meth, heroin) can be extremely addictive, and health- and lifedestroying. Others (sugar, caffeine) are largely benign, although unhealthy if taken regularly in large doses. Still others (alcohol, marijuana) lie somewhere in between – they are used safely by many thousands of people, but can have very serious consequences: both marijuana and alcohol can be addictive and damage one’s health after an extended period of constant use. Alcohol overdoses can also kill.

Drugs are dangerous things and should be respected. I haven’t always respected drugs – when I was thirteen and began snorting solvents and binge drinking as a way to escape my life, I probably caused irreparable damage to my brain. Eventually I settled into a safer pattern of chronic pot smoking, but I still rely too much on this drug to deal with stress. Psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin taught me a lot about existence and the way we perceive it, but also made it very difficult to interact with other humans for a couple of years. Much of my drug use has been dangerous and irresponsible, but here’s the point: the law never did anything to stop me abusing drugs or myself. All it does is drain millions from our economy, clog up the court system, create mistrust of the police, and criminalise ordinary people.

Our current drug laws repress human experience because people are afraid that these experiences are dangerous, which they are. But they can also give you so much. At the end of the day, some people will abstain from drugs, and this is fine. But many of us will lick the stinky feet of the goddess mushroom, because we know that in so doing we will see more and further things than those who abstain. We have to be careful to respect our limits and the dangers of drug use. But banning us from partaking only makes drugs more dangerous, not less. Recreational drug use must be legalised.

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About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

Comments (3)

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  1. Kerry says:


  2. Guy de Maupassant says:

    Dude, you always write about this when there are column inches to be filled. I know you’re the editor but can’t someone stop you from banging on about it constantly. I’m not a drug-user but have no problem with those who do. Maybe you are right, but what you suggest isn’t even on the fringes of what people here would accept. Thats just the bloody old majority tyrannising us again, or false conciousness or something… (P.s: Your suggestion that drug users are more enlightened that abstainers sounds a little self-serving, much like religions who claim that they alone have seen ‘the light’)

  3. Richard McGrath says:

    Recreational drug use in adults is just one area where the government doesn’t trust us to make “sensible” choices, and violates our freedoms so that we will Do The Right Thing. Fuck them!

    There is only one political party standing at the coming election, who think adults SHOULD be allowed to use whatever drugs they like, while retaining responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

    The Libertarianz Party believes in the total legalisation of all drugs:

    Drug prohibition not only does harm, but it’s morally wrong.

    By the way, my background – I am a doctor who works at the local methadone clinic.

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