Written by Perth Criminal Lawyer – Rhett Williamson
The Criminal Culture Cultivated by the Criminalisation of Drugs
Up until 1920, the American mafia had previously limited their activities to prostitution rings, illegal gambling and bookmaking, protection rackets and theft. That all changed in 1920 when the USA introduced the alcohol prohibition.
The mafia turned their attention to the illegal production and distribution of alcohol, known as ‘bootlegging’. This was a highly profitable enterprise for the gangsters who were quickly becoming millionaires, and this spawned the rise of figures such as Al Capone who was personally making an estimated $100 million dollars a year on the back of alcohol production, supply and sales.
When prohibition ended in 1933 the mafia crime enterprises had to then fill the void for all the income they were no longer receiving from the distribution of alcohol, so they turned their attentions to drug distribution. Organised crime is able to flourish due to drugs being illegal. If drugs were made legal then there would be no ability for organised criminal gangs to generate their significant incomes.
Due to drugs being illegal it has an upward pressure on price. It restricts the ability of supply being able to meet demand. When demand outstrips supply prices go through the roof.
If drugs were decriminalised then the price would come down drastically. Rather than a drug user requiring $500 to $1,000 per day to fund a drug addiction, they could obtain those drugs for 50 cents per day. This would lead to a virtual eradication of all associated serious crimes over night.
There would be virtually no one committing the types of offences that are almost invariably committed by people who are offending simply to finance their drug habit, we are talking about offences such as home burglary, armed robbery, stealing and other property offences.
I have never come across a person who breaks into houses or holds up service stations and pharmacies simply because they are inherently bad people. In fact, it is not uncommon for offenders to apologise to the victims whilst committing such offences, as they are doing it simply because they have a desperate drug addiction, which is impossible to finance through legitimate means, and the reason that drugs are so expensive comes back to the fact that they are illegal.
Drugs will never go away. Drugs and their use have been around for thousands of years. It is time that we stop treating drug use as a criminal matter and started treating it as a health matter. We do not lock up alcoholics who are addicted to alcohol, because they are not criminals, they have a problem that needs to be addressed from a counselling and health perspective.
If we legalise drugs, just as alcohol is legal, the answer is educate and regulate. As long as we have restrictions, such as not supplying drugs to minors, consumption allowed in licensed venues and laws that prevent people from driving under the influence of drugs, then society can continue to operate as normal. People who have additions will be treated medically and given support and counselling to help them, not locked up in our prisons and treated like criminals.
Because drugs would be regulated, just as food and pharmaceuticals are, then there would be no accidental overdoses and no deaths from people who consume drugs believing them to contain one thing only to lose their life because it turned out to contain other unknown substances. Drugs will no longer be manufactured in backyard labs, but in regulated controlled chemists. Every adult who elects to take drugs will know exactly what they are getting, every time.
As drugs will be legal, there will be no financial base for the organised crime gangs and drug syndicates. It would essentially pull the rug out from underneath them, as they would not have the enormous financial wealth required to run their organisations.
As a criminal defence lawyer, I too would be out of work, so perhaps I should not voice the opinion, however as long drugs are illegal I will keep defending clients on their charges. If the society wants change in the long term, then society and government must re-think their ‘war on drugs’.