Cocaine use is so prevalent throughout the UK that it has even been found in the tap water. Inspections of tap water at four different sites in the UK found metabolized traces of the illegal drug.
Research from Public Health Britain affirms that the levels are low enough to disregard any health concern, promising that the low trace levels pose no danger or health risk. Other tests have also found numerous traces of cocaine on nearly every bank-note in circulation, in toilets in the House of Commons, and at least 2/3 of Cambridge colleges. This is yet another reminder of how obvious the prohibition efforts of the government have failed miserably.
Possession of cocaine in the UK carries with it a sentence of 7 years in prison and a hefty fine: it’s still classified as a Class A substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA). Regardless, nearly 700,000 people aged 16 to 59 are estimated to take the drug every year in the UK. Working in opposition to the various goals which are expected to be achieved by prohibition efforts, illegal drugs are now cheaper and purer globally than at any time over the last 20 years. The police are not keeping drugs off the streets, out of homes or classrooms; they can’t even keep drugs out of the prison system. So who benefits from criminalization?
Perhaps the pharmaceutical drug companies aren’t in a rush for decriminalization because they don’t want you to grow medication instead of buying pills. Perhaps police departments are reluctant to accept decriminalization efforts because anti-drug prohibition legislation has helped numerous police departments to profit in the millions of dollars (thanks to asset forfeiture laws).
Numerous criminology experts, among others, have called for an overhaul of the prison system, specifically in regards to drug criminalization. Locking someone up in a cage for years seems a bit of an overreaction in response to a victimless crime such as possession of cannabis. Meanwhile, corporate CEO’s are slapped with a $1000 fine and community service, or less, for actions that are far more harmful to society.
Regardless of your own personal feelings on drug use, the fact remains that drug prohibition doesn’t work. It only adds more violence to drug use, and increased risk will also result in an increase in profit to be made by its vendors. Even medical researchers continue to warn that the war on drugs is failing, suggesting we should start to approach drug use as a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue.
No human being should be arrested or jailed when they haven’t committed a crime; when there is no victim there is no crime. Our society has many problems, and substance abuse is one of them, but the solution is not to throw people in cages. Victimless crimes do not need to gain a victim through incarceration, and substance abuse problems have never been helped by prohibition.