Drugs and Morality: An interview with Roger Howard   3 comments

I was lucky enough to interview Roger Howard, CEO, UK Drugs Policy Commission last week. You can read the interview write up here: http://www.thefreesociety.org/Articles/Features/morality-and-the-law-an-interview-with-the-uk-drug-policy-commission

We will be discussing drugs and morality at the Battle of Ideas festival in two weekends time, I look forward to continuing the debate…

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Posted October 18, 2011 by suzydean in Freedom

3 responses to “Drugs and Morality: An interview with Roger Howard

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  1. The morality debate looks set to raise some good points, but is couched in some prohibitionist constructs that are examples of ‘false consciousness’. What is lost is the whole issue of personal autonomy through the unwitting adoption of expressions which are in truth legal fictions. At first it may appear semantics to point out that ‘illegal drugs’ do not exist in law and the expression is a linguistic nonsense. If we are to rescue the subject of choice and some degree of self-determination in actions which do not adversely impact upon others, then we must recognise how the currency of words we accept uncritically undermines this possibility. Take for example ‘war on drugs’, legalising drugs, illicit drugs and similar expressions; they all flip the subject and object of control. The effect of this de-personalisation of legal subjectivity creates a situation where the regulation of persons based upon the outcome of their deeds becomes impossible. Rather there is no threshold for interference into the private sphere because persons interested in some drugs are inextricably associated with indivisible illegality. They are in effect reduced to what the law actually controls property. This is all the law can do, control persons with respect to drugs and not the other way round. We must ensure that the myth of drugs carrying legal status is expunged, for such language is not a simple short cut for saying what we already understand, but is the lock that prevents a rational administration of what is a good, drug user neutral law based upon misuse causing social harms. It is not the Act itself that is at fault, it is the administration of it, the Act was never meant to be an Act of prohibition at all – do remember please that drug use (except for the sole exception of opium) is not a crime under the law at all. The law is supposed to target property rights to ameliorate the harms caused by misus;, that is misuse, not all use.

  2. I agree that the drugs discussion, much like the alcohol discussion, flips the subject and object of control. This is within a content in which individuals more broadly are seen as out-of-control and unable to rationally assess different ideas. The discussion around marketing as something that is ‘evil because it makes people buy stuff’ is a case in point. People are not deemed able to make independent decisions. This is clearly very worrying.

    The interesting thing about Roger Howard was that like many on the left today, he argued that individual decision making was not enough of a social control because no man is an island – hence we need regulation. Interesting, as the left traditionally argued that in many individuals holding the same beliefs society could be said to have a shared stance or social position on an issue. Today, external regulation is seen as the only standard by which society can be said to share anything in common, when it is often imposed from above with little support from the public.

    • Perhaps the reason why opium was declared illegal to use in the first place was due to it’s ‘addictive’ quality. The theory is that society needs to protect itself from such misuse as persons are helpless in it’s grasp. Clearly this idea of people being the victims of drugs is pervasive and applies to pharmaceuticals, tobacco, alcohol and every controlled drug. I would be happy if you could work towards expunging the language that perpetrates the reversal of subjectivity, even though it is accpeted and in common parlance.

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