To support the de-criminalisation of drugs is to be desperately short sighted, argues Australia's JOHN SMITH.

John Smith
John Smith

Some people have expressed bewilderment at the conservative position of the Salvation Army regarding the oft-proposed de-criminalisation of drugs. But this fact should emphasise to the political decision makers that the prominent voices in the debate have not been those who are streetwise or those whose lives are spent at the coalface of youth rehabilitation.

I have just returned from a lecture tour in The Netherlands and the UK where serious questions are arising in the media concerning the falsely touted success of Holland s libertarian policies. Australian TV and radio, interviewing Dutch politicians and academics, have left the public with an impression that the drug trade in Holland has been seriously set back by the policies now being embraced. My own experience of periodically walking the streets of Amsterdam on the edge of the red light district over the last 20 years has indicated a huge credibility gap between official claims and street realities. Of course de-criminalisation provides its own self-fulfilling prophecy. Criminal incidence must be statistically reduced by definition if previous behaviour defined as criminal is de-classified. Excessive and unfair levels of punishment for minor offences certainly need urgent attention, but acceptance of drug trafficking is another matter.

The coup de gras of the popular theory of reduced illegal activity came as I was leaving for Scotland. The Dutch law enforcement announced the biggest successful drug raid ever experienced in that country. On arrival in Scotland I was confronted with a TV programme in which substantial evidence was provided that the Dutch free approach had done little or nothing to turn the tide of drug related criminal activity. The majority of addicts are simply not able or willing to embrace the discipline of legal drug cafes. The street trade still thrives and the resignation of the society to addiction as a normative reality in modern culture appears to have opened the floodgate to more widespread use.

If the touted millions of dollars needed to import heroin for use in the controlled experiment recently in Canberra, Australia were committed to supporting the work of youth workers in the Salvos and other agencies to provide varying styles of rehabilitation services, maybe we would turn the tide.

Of course the radical secularism in our society ignores the long-term problem of a generation, robbed of meaning in life itself. Perhaps, then, we should listen to the acknowledged supreme genius of the 20th century. What is the sense of our life? What is the sense of life of any living being at all? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask what is the sense of putting this question at all. i answer he who feels that his own life or that of his fellow beings is senseless is not only unhappy but hardly capable of living. (Albert Einstein, Springs Of Jewish Wisdom, Hender and Herder, New York)

In a society run on the basis of supply and demand, while we must seek to reduce the supply, only when the demand reduces will the problem diminish. We must provide a society, which invites young people to participate in life, not drop out of it. Addiction after all is only suicide by time payment. If a person has sufficient spiritual motivation to live, he or she will not commit physical, social or relational suicide. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.