Sunday, 10 January 2010

Why should environmentally minded Lib Dems support control and regulation of drugs?

The “War on Drugs” as it is being currently fought has massive unintended consequences for the environment. As over 40% of the estimated global cocaine trade is being intercepted, with little effect on prices to the consumer, it can therefore be logically argued that 67% more coca bush is being cultivated than is necessary to meet demand. Coca is being cultivated in some of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Colombia especially is concerned about the loss of valuable rainforest habitat. The policy of burning intercepted drugs only drives this destruction further, as does the US policy: Plan Colombia. This policy involves the aerial spraying of coca plantations with herbicide, a policy that requires farmers move elsewhere and destroy more rainforest if they are to make a living, and has the obvious environmental implications of widespread herbicide administration to a remarkably biodiverse rainforest.

Further reading:

The fact that the coca trade is illegal creates other serious consequences. Cocaine factories in the rainforest use many toxic chemicals that they are not bound by environmental law to dispose of responsibly. As with cultivation, the destruction of these factories by law enforcement requires that they move elsewhere and affect yet another ecosystem.

In the short term, I would suggest that intercepted drugs shipments should not be burnt, driving the need to grow more coca and manufacture more cocaine. Rather these seizures should be used in treatment programmes in the UK. Not so long ago, general practitioners were routinely prescribing heroin and cocaine to the addicts who needed it. We should return to this model, or something similar, undercutting the criminal market with the very drugs they planned to sell in our country. Not only would this course of action reduce the environmental impacts of the drugs trade in the South American rainforest, it would represent a serious economic blow to the drugs cartels and reduce the viability of Britain as a market for their criminal activity, while also engaging addicts in treatment services in the hope that they can reduce or even terminate their consumption.

The cocaine trade effects are the most obvious example of the impacts prohibition is having on the environment. The vast amounts of energy consumed by illegal cannabis factories are a concern, as are any organisation's activities when using chemicals in a manufacturing process untouched by the concerns of environmental regulations.

The “War on Drugs” is having massive unintended (but to be expected) consequences upon the environment. If Britain could lead the way in reducing these consequences by growing and manufacturing our own drugs, then hopefully the rest of the world will recognise the success of our policy in vastly improving the lives of many of our citizens, and will move towards more sensible drugs policies that safeguard our environment for the enjoyment of subsequent generations.

The motion can be found here along with instructions on how to add your support:

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