Would it surprise you to learn that in law there are no ‘illegal drugs’, no ‘illicit drugs’ and no crime of using such drugs either?
We are beings, not objects – the law controls us, drug users. There is no mandate in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MoDA) for policing our intimate chemistry, unless our actions lead to a social problem. The law does not say anywhere that we shouldn’t use cannabis, yet this is how users experience it, as an assault on freedom to medicate and modify consciousness.
Is the language deployed to engage with the debate important? It’s more than important; it’s everything. Unless users comprehend the fact that policy is only words and that only the right words can penetrate this edifice, then there is no possibility of transforming our lives. We must respect drug users through re-framing the various prohibitionist de-personalising deceptions and legal misconstructions into the correct language. Reformists have failed to understand the prohibitionist language and belief system and actually deploy it themselves; the result is that their efforts are akin to trying to defeat racism via the slogan ‘equality for niggers’.
One thing that matters to me about drug policy is that it is understood in terms of choices for persons of a suitable age. I’m focused on people and their conduct with respect to their drug interests – talking about regulating drugs is a fetishised form of the debate about freedom. Rather than addressing a problem, it starts with a chemical supposedly being acceptable or unacceptable, irrespective of the human element determining whether there is a misuse that gives rise to a social problem or not.
Choice means being able to think freely; all of our fundamental freedoms are dependant upon an unequivocal respect for freedom of thought. The European Convention on Human Rights grants an inviolable right under Article 9(1); I see this as a right to access that modality of thought cannabis facilitates, and being able to do so without worrying about any unwarranted interference or condemnation. Prohibitionists sow the seeds of destruction by front-loading negative outcomes into the psyche of vulnerable persons. We dream of the freedom to belong, being equal with others who sensibly enjoy alcohol or other activities that cause no harm to others. We can only do this when we purge the debate from all stigmatising propagandist anti-drug user rhetoric and jargon. Persons interested in the cause must come to terms with the lexicon of so-called drug war propaganda.
The misconstruction of the law allows government to conclude that the persons abusing alcohol or tobacco to be identified as users of ‘legal drugs’. This means that government have by-passed the MoDA mandate to address drug misuse that causes social harm. The justification for this ‘separate but equal’ administration of drug users is cited to be “historic and cultural precedent.” ‘Illegal drugs’ is the legal fiction that obscures the regulatory apparatus of the MoDA and facilitates a prohibitionist policy outcome that Parliament did not legislate for, that is one that entirely ignores the vast majority of drug abusers and then fails to differentiate between peaceful and problematic activities of those it scapegoats and persecutes.
I have commented elsewhere about the inequalities of treatment experienced by users. The law is a product of the global legal diktat in the form of international treaties and conventions. These presume to exclude classes of drug users, such as drinkers and the smokers of tobacco, and of course various psychoactive pharmaceuticals, from the operation of national laws even though the misuse of these drugs leads to nearly all of the harm caused by substance misuse. Incredibly the ACMD hasn’t a single file on alcohol or tobacco related harms, even though parliamentarians in the UK drafted a law that clearly was insightful enough to mandate the best available expert body to be at the heart of the administration.
Cannabis is about increasing wellness, not illness; for many it is about feeling recharged, and awakened out of mental sluggishness and relieved of physical pains. In fact, it’s about anything you want it to be about, about being alive and experiencing the blossoming of self. First and foremost it’s about you, not the plant.
By Darryl Bickler of The Drug Equality Alliance