Decriminalise drugs: medical journal editor

2011-02-04 12:45

The SA Medical Journal says South Africa’s war on drugs has failed, and they should be decriminalised.

“Using psychoactive substances may be a vice but should not be considered to be a crime,” managing editor JP van Niekerk has written in the February edition of the magazine.

He said the vision of South Africa’s national drug master plan was of a drug-free society.

“Human history and international experience clearly demonstrate that this does not reflect reality. We should acknowledge this and develop better ways of dealing with human frailty.”

He said a more evidence-based, nuanced approach to the harms of drugs was required.

For example, he says, it made no sense to legalise the use of alcohol and tobacco, which lay in the upper half of the “harms ranking”, not the less dangerous dagga, which also had beneficial effects.

Policy should aim to reduce the harm that drugs caused, not to embroil more people in the criminal justice system.

Van Niekerk also said making drugs illicit ceded their control to drug dealers, and escalating the war on drugs made them more valuable and attracted more participants into the illicit drug economy.

“The war on drugs has failed. Humans have always taken psychoactive substances and prohibition has never kept them from doing so,” he said.

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