Friday, July 20, 2007

Punishment fitting the crime

I'm not sure I am such a libetarian that I am one who would say that people should be free to do things that would harm them necessarily. For example, I think the law being that people should wear seat belts is a good one- it encourages people to belt up, and saves lives. But the punishment should not be too harsh- a monetary fine is applied to drivers who do not do this. That is all.

So we come to drugs. Let's ignore the hilarious inconsistency of our laws- it is probable that alcohol is more harmful than cannabis (neither of which are physically addictive), and smoking most certainly is. But lets say the government wants to discourage people from taking these drugs. Fair enough- these drugs can kill and due to some's highly addictive nature, encourage other crimes, but here the punishment seems steep and pointless. The penalty for posession of ecstasy can be up to 7 years in prison. 7 years. That is madness. We are talking about a drug with a relatively low mortality rate (one website suggests lower- far lower- than alchohol) and no physically addictive properties. Yet posession of this drug will essentally ruin your life beyond all repair. Now I wouldn't take this drug, not only because of health risks, but mainly because I'm not particularly willing to risk 7 years for that, but those who do simply don't deserve a punishment that harsh.

Surely a more sensible system would require mandatory sessions to get rid of any drug dependancy, possibly linked with community service and a fine. But then our drug policy has not been sensible for a very long time- it is incredibly clear that politicans talk tough on this issue because they believe it is a no brainer in terms of winning votes- it's not the right thing to do by any leap of the imagination.

This occurs to me because the government is saying it will review it's drug policy to see if cannabis should be upgraded to level B. Thats a potential 5 years in prison for posession. Now considering several members of the government have admitted to taking cannabis in the past, I wonder if they'd consider charging themselves? Of course not. In their case it was youthful experimentation and perfectly harmless. in others it's bad enough to earn a jail sentence.


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