In an attempt to finally demonstrate the futility of the war on drugs once and for all, Plymouth Police have gone out of their way to prove every tired prohibitionist justification for keeping things as they are - wrong. Or so it seems on reading this story from the Plymouth Herald.
Reuben Ferguson, an 18 year old from London, has been warned to expect jail time after being caught dealing drugs twice in three weeks. So far, so run-of-the-mill, an everyday occurrence in modern Britain.
But look a little closer and this story reveals itself to be something quite special – what we have here is a Holy Trinity of sorts. In every possible sense this case represents the very worst failings of prohibition and highlights the desperate need for reform.
Firstly, there’s Ferguson’s age. He is a teenager. A child. Supporters of the status quo are forever banging on about protecting children from the harms of drugs by enforcing prohibition, as if something being illegal precludes its availability to kids. In reality, as is the case here, prohibition of drugs not only fails to protect our children but wilfully places them in harm’s way, just waiting to be hoovered up by the organised criminals who move into any and all unregulated markets.
Which brings us nicely onto the second way in which this case highlights the absurdity of the drug war – Ferguson was dealing drugs, not because of any personal want to do so, but because of a debt owed to the very criminals who had sold him drugs in the first place. They had reeled him in, let him run up debts he couldn’t pay and forced him to do their dirty work as repayment. Even the most ardent supporter of prohibition would struggle to argue that this would ever happen in a legal market.
Last but most definitely not least – he was arrested TWICE IN THREE WEEKS. How much clearer does the evidence need to be that arrests and criminalisation don’t work? Of course some people will argue that even tougher punishments are required to stop people re-offending, but this is utter rubbish. If that were the case, then countries with the death penalty for drug dealing would never have to execute a single person. Yet they do almost every day. Our own government even undertook and released a study on comparative drug laws around the world and found categorically that the harshness of a country’s punishments for drug use has no effect whatsoever on the use of drugs in that country.
It is more obvious than ever that our outdated drug laws need reforming – they do nothing to help people and indeed all too often have the opposite effect. Cases like this one only serve to highlight that need. We can only hope that Reuben Ferguson will be the last to have his life ruined not by drugs, but by drug policy.