It’s time to take a cold, hard look at the failures of the 20th century’s public policy decisions.
The War on Drugs has failed. Public education, especially in cities, is a mess. The welfare bureaucracy has grown out of control and the debt pile it fuels shows no sign of shrinking. We need an immigration system that lets the world’s best and brightest stay here after getting their college degrees. These are not radical statements in Washington anymore. The damage from outdated laws and the political economy that produced them compounds every year.
Faced with a mountain of debt, cities, states and the federal government will seek new ways to generate the growth and prosperity they need to keep the lights on. This means free-market reform that improves the business climate and better provides existing services.
Jordan Hawthorne learnt the dangers of ‘legal highs’ the hard way. After he woke up from a coma with severe brain damage – caused by smoking the freely available substance ‘Vertex’ – his father stated his support for the proposed Psychoactive Substances Bill. This legislation aims to tackle the growth of ‘head shops’: retailers that sell legal highs on British streets. If the bill is passed, it will pre-emptively ban the trade of every new psychoactive substance in the UK. Violators will face a maximum of seven years in prison.
Ironically, the very nature of the law is un-British. Charlotte Bowyer, writing for the Adam Smith Institute, points out that “for a party so concerned with preserving the UK’s legal identity it wants to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights, this represents a break from centuries of British common law, under which we are free to do something unless the law expressly forbids it.”
Aside from being so unashamedly hypocritical, there are a number of serious problems that will be caused by this blanket ban. First and foremost, many drug researchers fear that it would severely hamper their efforts to explore the potential medical benefits of psychoactive substances. James Rucker, who lectures in psychiatry at King’s College London, told The Guardian that the Government’s approach to legal highs already “stymies research,” making it much harder to “discover which of these new psychoactive substances might have medical benefits.”