In writing this column I must be honest about the fact that I have never taken a recreational drug in my life. The closest I've come to a psychedelic trip is the gentle sugar high of red cordial. So from an outsider's perspective I at least have no real bias towards condoning drug use, which is what I'm about to do.
Laws around drugs are intended to protect us, yet they are laden with hypocrisy. Alcohol is addictive, has negative health implications, contributes to violence and causes over 3,000 deaths per year in Australia alone. Cigarettes are addictive, have negative health implications, make your clothes all smelly and cause over 15,000 deaths per year. Cannabis is the least addictive, is known to have health benefits and has never caused death from overdosing. Yet in addition to it being illegal, the State Government is now also banning the sale of 'weed smoking devices' in Victoria. This seems redundant as people who are resourceful enough to buy weed are unlikely to be phased by the absence of bongs on Swantson Street. The lack of logic behind the whole weed ordeal makes you want to go out, get drunk and punch someone in the eyeball. Not that doing so would be out of the ordinary in this most liveable city of ours.
The whole drug debate is all over the net, so I'd rather not rehash (pun so happily intended) all the same points. Each individual substance deserves its own debate and scrutiny when it comes to its ethical use. Taking LSD, for example, is reported as being one of the most enlightening experiences a human being can have. Yet its distribution is left in the hands of the criminal world. Not the cool, attractive criminal world like on Underbelly: the ugly real one that kills people so that you can pop pills at Meredith.
What I'm saying is that drugs like LSD may be deemed immoral purely by their association with crime. In truth, I'm not sure whether it's a good idea to one day make psychedelics available to the public, but it sure as hell isn't getting a fair trail.
My difficulty in writing the column, in part, comes from the fact that I received no drug education in my thirteen years of schooling. If it's illegal, they won't mention it. And here lies my point: the morality or immorality of a given drug cannot be determined by whether it's legal or not. Information and insight into the world of drugs will help create a safe and responsible culture around them, as apposed to the dark, underground one that exists today.
On the legal drug scene we still have problems: alcohol. It's illegal to be intoxicated in a public place, even a pub or bar. Why? Because our great nation has bred the social habit of going out and getting smashed to the point of aggression and harm to others. Yet the law against public intoxication hasn't prevented Melbournites from excessive drinking every jolly weekend.
In Europe, the social norms around drinking are far more moderate. Plus, the treatment of the occasional drunkard is much more caring. In a European pub, the rare drunkard would be called a cab and even helped home by one of the bar staff. In our pretty little city when bar staff see someone slurring, stumbling or trying to chat-up a bar stool, they are legally required to block off the doors and call the cops. That's the solution we've created.
Ultimately, I think it is erroneous to imagine we can legislate our way to a moral society. Reacting to the difficulties that drugs create by just piling on more laws means we're less likely to develop a positive and reasonable drug culture. I'm not saying to take drugs just because they are legal or not to because they aren't. I feel that more open information on each of this world's narcotic wonders will help us come to the right decisions ourselves.