• Legalizing, not killing, will solve the drug problem

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    ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

    ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

    (Last of a series on drugs in the Philippines)

    HONESTLY, the strategy of President Rodrigo Duterte in dealing with drugs, while effective in scaring pushers and users out of their wits, will not make the problem of drugs go away. Furthermore, the planned re-imposition of the death penalty may not be enough. Even the President has no illusions about its deterrent effect when he admitted that it will be more in the form of retributive justice, as society’s vengeance on its criminals.

    The President campaigned on a promise to eradicate drugs in three months. It is now November, and we are still faced with the problem. Of course, the prevalence of drugs may have gone down, with thousands of users and pushers surrendering, even as many have lost lives either in legitimate police operations, or in what has been labeled as deaths from extra-judicial executions, or from drug syndicates killing their own.

    But I doubt that in six years the President, using this shock, awe and scare tactic, can bring a lasting solution to the problem after his term is over in 2022.

    Thailand, Mexico, Colombia and other countries have tried the same strategies and their drug problems still persist.

    Drugs could not be eliminated by fear, for the simple reason that fear is ranged againstequally strong human feelings–-desire for pleasure, and greed for money and power. These could not be eliminated by killing people, or by simply rehabilitating or incarcerating them.

    Drugs are like alcohol, tobacco, food and sex. They are all addictive because they cater to what makes us human–-the ability to desire pleasure. This is why there arealcohol, tobacco, food and sex industries that thrive in response to this desire.

    The walls of the correctional institutions, rehabilitation clinics and confessionals, and the bullets fired in a dark alley from ridings-in-tandem, the face of General Bato, even the intimidating curses by the Presidentcould not make the drug problem go away.

    What will make it go away is to manage it as a human activity that would require strict controls, in the form of regulation, to remove from it the stigma, take it out of the territory of crime syndicates and deny politicians the opportunity to use it to make their political fortunes.

    The solution is to license functional drug users, rehabilitate its abusers, and criminalizeany unlicensed drug-related activities.

    Drug use can be functional at certain levels of use, and by certain kinds of people. Legalizing and regulating functional drug use can be implemented by a process of licensing, subject to mandatory police, medical, psychological and financial clearances. Only those without criminal records, are physically sound, psychologically functional, and financially able should be issued licenses. These licenses will be renewed periodically and more frequently, like every six months, and must prescribe the allowed dosage and frequency of use over a given period of time. These restrictions are to be encrypted in the license cards, which will be swiped in authorized drug outlets. To avoid impulsive use, there will be a time lag where the buyer will have to return the next day to pick up the purchased drugs. For more lethal drugs, which may even include shabu, sales and consumption should be limited to authorized places only, where there are health and psychological support personnel on duty.

    Any sign of dysfunctionality which can be detected in the course of consumption in authorized places, or by the required psychological assessment during license renewal, will automatically lead to the cancellation or suspension of the license. This will lead to a mandatory procedure where the person showing dysfunctionality or signs of drug abuse will be processed by a mechanism involving the social welfare and development and health departments and the courts to determine the proper treatment for the person, and can include a range of intervention from counseling to mandatory rehabilitation.Social legislation can also be enacted to include drug rehabilitation as part of the coverage for medical and health insurance.

    In this policy regime, any unlicensed consumption, distribution and sales of drugs will be considered a criminal offense, and will be meted the harshest penalty which our laws will provide. Consumption of drugs, even if by a licensed user, will be considered an aggravating circumstance in the determination of the severity of any crime.

    Some European countries have already legalized drug use. California, through a popular vote, recently legalized medical marijuana.

    Indeed, the problem is complex that would require bold solutions. Legalizationwill require an overhaul not only of our system of laws and our procedures, but also our mindsets.

    President Duterte should begin to think beyond his six years.

    State regulation of drug consumption, distribution and salesaddresses the natural human need for pleasure, denies crime syndicates and their political patrons the opportunity to use drugs as their capital, and removes the nesting ground for the forces attending the development of a narco-state.

    It is the only sustainable solution.

    antonio.contreras@manilatimes.net

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    10 Comments

    1. your opinion not correct ;In japan drug (heroin) proliferated among the populace after world war two. but by the efforts of the police forces, now completely no more of the threats of drugs in japan.

    2. The US has had a war on drugs for 30 years. The US filled it’s prisons and then added more prisons… the only thing that happened was casual users were turned into harden criminals as they could no longer get a job, the drug gangs got rich, one drug would disappear and another would follow. Countries such as Columbia, now Mexico have been near destroyed by the rise in power of the drug lords and their money/armies. Many states now allow medical marijuana and five (and fastly growing) allow recreational usage of marijuana. Other states (many) have taken away the criminal element for the user and help them with treatment. American phara companies have gotten in the game in a bad way by pushing a form of Opiod into the market making tens of thousands hook on heroin… American is quickly turning to legalizing light drugs such as marijuana and providing help for those using harder drugs. The US learned you cannot arrest your way out of this problem or kill your way out of the problem. Until countries such as China stop exporting the base ingredient for shabu you will have a problem and the US will have the same problem. The legalization of lighter drugs takes the power and money away from the drug lords and helps countries regain control…

    3. “For more lethal drugs, which may even include shabu, sales and consumption should be limited to authorized places only,” Really? You’re either out of your wits or just plain stupid to tinker with the idea that you can control the drug menace by legalizing it. The government can’t even properly regulate alcohol or tobacco consumption. What makes you think it can do better with lethal drugs? Governments all over the world are even trying to end the smoking menace and people like you on the other hand would like shabu legalized? Sustainable, may @zz!

    4. Legalization will reduce it, not solve it. Narco-money-corruption will see to that.
      There is hope. Epigenetic and genetic engineering may offer a permanent solution. 10-20 years away. Massive resistance from the Church-Oligarch complex, as well as from the Narcotrafiker-Corrupt govt complex will delay implementation. But that is a debate for the future.

    5. WackybackyHonor on

      Legalize it in a developing country where most are struggling for food and living. It must have been good in some countries as an excuse to use it – and not be arrested. So, okay if you have the means to buy it.

      It feels like I was in a stupor reading this – as if I was a drug addict but I am not – so let’s legitimize the buy and use of it – get some brains freeze and shrink and the whole country just goes down… man – you should become the next President … and legalize dope – and let’s predict a sad state of the nation. Arriba – La Presidente!

    6. Legalizing will only deepen the problem because drug users in this country indulge themselves into drugs not for fun but always lead to crimes. And I tell you, we can’t compare food and sex to illegal drugs because food and sex are natural and inherent to man but drug is not. If shabu will be legalized, it should be legal as well for all people who do not want drugs to kill the users if they commit crime to our families.

    7. It will probably take a generation or two for this idea to be considered. Society prefers prohibition. Even more liberal countries still prefer prohibition even as they gingerly experiment with more liberalization. As it is, drug lords probably even prefer the current setup because the profit margin is higher in a more prohibitive environment and they always have the human rights champions and civil society groups supporting them if unwittingly.

    8. Yes,you are correct to state that Duterte’s current methods of trying to rid Pilipinas’ illegal drug-dealing and usage regime is probably,ultimately,doomed to failure.
      Other countries banning “recreational drug-use” have spent trillions of dollars, and caused untold misery for millions of their own country’s citizens as a result.some of these countries have admitted that their drug-wars have failed.
      Would it be too simplistic for me to state that drugs only become a problem when somebody wishes to make money from their use; and so taxes the users (by either Governments and/or others in power)? When taxation occurs,as with alcohol and tobacco,there is a coalition of beneficiaries who control the usage..and corruption is a result.
      Your well-thought-out article re your suggested Policy is very complicated and restricting,and the resources required to implement and administer such a scheme would be enormous compared to costs currently. Also..more importantly,your scheme STILL requires strict policing (and it’s own resources) to ensure your rulings are adhered to.Surely,we should,officially, be directing ourselves to merely encouraging “responsible” use,and taxing the users so as to pay for the rehab.of those who fall-off-the-perch.
      In-the-meantime..Du30 is attempting to physically frighten people off trying ‘illegal” drugs by pragmatical means..as well as breaking the chain-of-command within the huge drug-making and selling business here and abroad.

    9. Legalising drug use is the only method of controlling it. I do not agree with the writers elaborate licensing system as the “underground” would quickly reassert itself. We have to learn to live with drugs just as we have learned to live with alcohol and tobacco. One useful consequence of a regulated supply system is that drugs could be taxed just as are tobacco and alcohol.

    10. Many countries have legalized marijuana because it has been proven to have beneficial medical effects. What they did was remove marijuana from the dangerous drug list and move it to the medical drug list. No country has legalized dangerous drugs and no one ever will.