Honestly, are legal highs really that bad for you?

A cross-party peer group has come to the recent conclusion that the possession and consumption of all illegal drugs should be decriminalised, with the least harmful, or currently “legal highs&

A cross-party peer group has come to the recent conclusion that the possession and consumption of all illegal drugs should be decriminalised, with the least harmful, or currently “legal highs” being regulated and sold in shops with labels detailing risks, similar to that of a cigarette packet. They say that the illegality of drugs fails to help drug users, and instead marginalises them, rendering them victims of social stigma and disgust.

Now, while I agree that people who use drugs, recreationally or otherwise, should not be stigmatised, I simply cannot bring myself to accept this as a valid argument for the marketing of legal highs such as Benzo Fury (a stimulant similar to ecstasy) or synthetic cannabinoids. 

Baroness Meacher, chairwoman of The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform (APPG), said: “There are drugs a great deal safer than alcohol and tobacco,” citing this as one of the reasons for the proposal. This, I feel, is at best a misinformed argument and at worst an immoral one.

While she avoids hypocrisy (don’t you just hate those people who preach about drugs with a cigarette in one hand and a beer bottle in the other?), her logic of “Let’s add more poisons to society” fails to win me over. Sure, alcohol is dangerous, and sure, it’s a damn sight more dangerous than a lot of the so-called “party drugs” such as MDMA, but is this a big enough reason to legalise such drugs? If we’re being totally honest with ourselves, we should really be talking about banning alcohol and cigarettes. Nobody would like it, myself included, but it makes more sense than “Oh legalise everything, we may as well!”

It would be nice if all drugs were regulated and you could be sure of exactly what you were buying (two men died in Wigan January 20 and others were hospitalised as a result of a bad batch of ecstasy). Of course it would. Nobody wants to be that girl that takes a dodgy pill and ends up dying on the spot. But, and I’m probably not going to win any fans in saying this, the health hazards are a risk you take when it comes to drugs, and if anything, they can actively put people off trying something that they otherwise would have no qualms about.

Just think how many more teenagers would be experimenting with pills if they were sure that what they were taking was “government approved” and therefore safer somehow. We see an example of this in the popular film “Limitless”, when protagonist Eddie takes a dangerous pill after being assured that it was FDA approved, something he would never done had he known that it was, in fact, illegal. Ecstasy and mephedrone would be as popular as alcopops, and I for one would rather my fifteen year old daughter was experimenting with a sneaky WKD or two than chewing her gums apart and going for five days without sleep after taking something that the corner shop was selling at a far more affordable rate than alcohol.

Now I’m not saying drugs are bad. I honestly do not have a problem with drugs (well, unless you count the nightmares I had after seeing the Faces of Meth), but I would just much rather they remain illegal. Let’s be honest, criminalising these legal highs will not make them particularly difficult to get hold of. If you want to experiment with drugs, you’ll be able to experiment with drugs. Trust me, if you’re that desperate, you’ll be able to find them, and consume them at your own leisure. This begs the question, why bother legalising drugs? All that it will do is make them more socially acceptable, and we have to ask ourselves whether this is something that we really want when we take into consideration just how much our teens are binging on substances which were practically unheard of ten years ago. 

What’s more, not much is known about the long-term affects of legal highs. The only thing that can really be observed is the short term effects of such drugs, which are usually no more severe than a few nosebleeds or panic attacks, risks that don’t seem so great to the open-minded teen. Before we start selling these products in our supermarkets, why don’t we wait a few years and see just how dangerous they are? Perhaps then we’ll be able to make a more responsible decision. It’s no use labelling a drug as “legal” or “Class C” when we know next to nothing about it. Why don’t we instead assume the worst and label all new and legal highs as Class A, just to scare people off a little while scientists research the facts? Ensuring their legality only results in simple-minded people assuming that what they’re taking is totally harmless.

In addition to this, the marketing of legal highs will only make drugs more accessible to children. Think about when you were growing up. I bet you were told that drugs were bad for you and that you were forbidden from ever trying them. Now, while I’m sure that a lot of you did end up trying drugs, just think about how much more of you would have done, had you been told that they were just as acceptable as alcohol and cigarettes. Instead of people experimenting with underage alcohol before moving onto more illicit substances, we’d have twelve year olds snorting coke on the playground. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but proposals like the one I am discussing are the kind of ideas that are merely a stepping stone to further problems in society.

Just take a look at Amsterdam. Seen by many as the absolute Mecca of liberty and free love, Amsterdam is not the relaxed and liberal place it first appears. Did you know that in hash cafes you can buy heroin and crack cocaine under the counter? That in pornography shops you can buy snuff or newborn porn? Sure, these things are not staring you in the face from the shelves, but you only have to know what to ask for and it will suddenly all become available to you. Oh, and the prostitutes? Trafficked. These are not liberated feminists doing as they please with their bodies. They are women who have been lured into the country by pimps posing as “lover boys”, who force them into the trade as a way to earn money for themselves.

Sarah Forsyth says in her autobiography, “Slave Girl”, that 70-90% of women in the famous Red Light District are victims of sex trafficking, owned by pimps and forced to sell themselves. Legalising one illicit thing merely opens the gateway to others. It doesn’t reduce crime. Let’s face it, there will always be gangsters about. Legalising one thing merely shifts the focus to something else. The gangsters will find a new niche in the market and boom, before you know it there’s a new epidemic of something and what were previously Class A drugs are now seen as child’s play. 

Ultimately, even if the risk at taking a substance is almost zero, I see no reason to legalise it. The government should be more concerned with the safety of it’s people than any profit they stand to make (which is ultimately what this is all about – the government getting rich off our backs), and if that means that we can have less fun at the weekend then that’s the way it should be.

Don’t get me wrong, as a 20 year old student I’d think life would be brilliant if drugs were legal and Monday mornings were instead criminalised. However, unlike the majority of people in on this debate, who simply want an easier life, I just can’t be in favour of the government legalising something that will increase crime, put children at risk, and open a whole can of powdery worms.

What do you think? Should drugs be decriminalised? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.