Fact and Faith, some episodes

FACT: There are in Scotland some hundreds of thousands of people addicted to harmful substances, some of which can be legally obtained such as cigarettes and alcohol, others of which cannot, such a marijuana and heroin. All of these damage human health, some fatally, but true addicts disregard the danger, even when the damage is all too evident in their minds and bodies. Many of them live unhappy lives, marked by depression, poverty, unemployment and homelessness, although those whose addictions are more socially acceptable suffer less severely. The state benefits from the sale of alcohol and tobacco through taxation.

FACT: There are in Scotland (and the UK) a class of professional criminals, whose families are well-known to the criminal justice system. They prey on other people by theft, fraud and violence. They may show loyalty to each other and daring of a sort, but are otherwise devoid of humanity, causing damage to the lives of others without compassion or remorse.

FACT: Our present laws regarding the availability of drugs places the supply of a whole range of addictive substances desired by addicts into the hands of professional criminals. Or to put it another way, our present law leaves a crucial aspect of the care of drug addicts to the lovingkindness of the scum of the earth. It is no wonder that the results are not good. The immensely profitable trade in illegal drugs is ultimately controlled by international criminals, and is serviced nationally by powerful UK criminal networks, including couriers and local supply agents. The addict will never know if she is being cheated as regards price or quality; and if she gets into debt, she may have to repay it by acting as seller or courier or sex-slave. Any serious challenge from an addict to a supplier can lead to injury or death. Both of these are all too likely for any user: I have officiated at the funerals of three young Dundonians, whose parents were involved as local supply agents.

FACT: The Daily Record newspaper has been campaigning on Scotland’s appalling number of drug deaths, urging the Government to deal with addiction as a medical issue by decriminalising the possession and use of drugs. It has been an intelligent and well-researched campaign, which looks as if it may succeed in changing Government policy.

FACT: It would be possible to legalise the sale/ provision of these drugs. Honest, regulated suppliers, privately or publicly owned, could begin to regularise supply, quality, price and local availability, (perhaps on the model of Off-Licences); and addicts could begin to re-order their lives in the confidence of available, affordable, legal supply. There would be many problems in doing this, but it could be done, not least because the Government could save the money presently spent on “The war against drugs”, and could gain by deciding to tax the sale of drugs, This revenue might be used to fund the medical care of addicts, and the kind of abstinence programmes, especially 12- Step programmes which have had success with addictions. Some drug users may be able to keep their usage at a level which damages them no more than social drinking.

FACT: This revolution would destroy the present trade in drugs. Of course it would continue in ways similar to the various black markets in tobacco and alcohol, but a huge network of criminal control, violence and profit would have been disabled. Given the key position of this network in Scottish crime, its collapse might significantly alter the balance of power between criminals and police.

FAITH: Many ministers and priests in Scotland, like myself, who have worked in parishes where poverty is an issue, will have experienced at first hand the misery caused by the drug trade, including violence, suicide, overdose-deaths, theft, prostitution, child neglect and more. We should be united in asking our churches to support a public enquiry into legalisation of the supply of drugs, as part of their commitment to those whom Jesus Christ called, “The least important of my brothers and sisters.”


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