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back to article Snort coke, shaft the environment, say boffins

Snorting cocaine is an environmental crime whatever your views on drug use, scientists declared last week. A panel of scientists meeting at the Natural History Museum in London last week detailed how the production of the drug and its trafficking affect biodiversity and contribute to climate change. The production of a gram of …

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Alien

Marie Celestes Adrift and all at Sea in TEMPESTuous Waters/Chill dDepths/Hot Encounters

"Snort coke, shaft the environment, say boffins"

Nice BootStrap headline, El Reg/Barbara. What is not in dDoubt, is that snorting coke shifts the environment, says AI boffinry?

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Not quite

It's NOT the cocaine that's causing the problems. It's the fact that it's illegal.

If a cocaine producer were to be careful about the chemicals they use to maintain their crop and process it into the end product, there is no reason for cocaine to be any worse for the environment than coffee or potatoes. However, the present legal situation ACTIVELY ENCOURAGES the worst kind of irresponsible behaviour in cocaine production. Using one's own land, purchasing approved pesticides via the official channels and disposing of chemical solvents properly all rather tend to attract attention -- which, given the nature of the operation, is invariably undesirable. So instead, clandestine cultivation takes place in hastily-cut-down native forest, black-market agricultural chemicals are used, and waste products are dumped illegally.

As long as there is a stronger incentive to break the law than to comply with the law, this situation will persist. The best thing that Colombia could do would be to legalise the production of cocaine and regulate it just like any other industry.

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Coat

Ban coke, shaft the environment

The damage done to the economy, society and the environment by illegal drugs is largely caused by their illegality. Governments are almost never held to account for their key role in this situation.

If chocolate were made illegal, people who remained in the cocoa trade would become rich overnight, and swathes of environmental damage would be caused at every level --- during growing, transport, manufacturing and distribution.

Cocoa barons would become immensely rich and powerful, driving other organized crime and funding terrorism. Chocoholics would become a total pain in the arse, committing millions of petty crimes to fund their habits, eating contaminated chocolate 'cut' with other substances, and turning to prostitution --- basically becoming a huge burden on the health and welfare systems.

Worst of all, chocolate dealers would deliberately target children to get them into the habit, so they could fund their own habits or finance their own criminal activities.

And then the government could say it was all down to the evils of chocolate, without even considering that the problems were all of their own making.

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Thumb Up

Not a galloping shock

But still a very well written piece on the subject none the less. And I am sure that this will be of a thought provoking nature to many people and will offer some insight to a problem that is too easy to ignore when compared to the more "public" problems caused by cocaine.

Keep up the good work!

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Paris Hilton

Bad as an absolute, but in relative terms

I have no idea what the figures are, but I'd love to see cocaine vs wheat, sugar, corn, chicken, beef, etc. just to give some real perspective...

But more importantly, I think you guys have just identified a market for Organic Fair Trade Cocaine, for the discerning super model trying to help the planet in any way they can.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmmm

But surely the reason that producers use illegal damaging methods of production is because the product is illegal? If the product was not illegal production could be regulated and controlled in much the same way as alcohol, tobacco, petrol, soy beans etc..

This means that it does matter what your views on prohibition are. Ending prohibiton would enable control and regulation - one beneficiary of which would be the environment.

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Happy

"...the UK is one of the world’s largest consumption markets for cocaine..."

"...the UK is one of the world’s largest consumption markets for cocaine..."

...and we do loads of binge drinking too... whatever people say, us Brits don't muck about when it comes to getting leathered :)

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Paris Hilton

It's that old legalise it debate again...

If the production of cocaine were legal, as coffee is, then there's no reason that the cocoa plants couldn't be grown in similarly environmentally friendly fashion. It's actually the legal/illegal landscape that's causing the problem, and because cocaine production is all illegal it cannot be regulated. I don't think snorting cocaine is a particularly good idea, but there's obviously a truly vast market worldwide that finds otherwise.

Although I would always counsel people to not bother with them, if someone wants to put alkaloids into their bodies I can't really see why they shouldn't if they really insist upon it. Smoking is a pretty dumb pastime, but the amount it raises in tax pays for the health problems several times over. Alcohol is much the same.

Paris has probably had a snoot-full in her time.

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Fear and Loathing

What about a nice carbon neutral smack habit?

On a unrelated note, the government have fucked up, we'll only take issues seriously for so long, now that "the environment" is a political football, and when the reports we're constantly bombarded with tend to be alarmist propaganda with little substance, it will confuse people into apathy.

Lets take Cannabis as an example, we're given so much conflicting information, it's impossible to make an informed decision on its dangers, simply because we have anti-cannabis politicians lying hijacking reports, and pro-cannabis activists hijacking reports. As a result, the level of use in the country is higher than that of the Netherlands (where it remains legal). It may well be EXTREMELY bad for you, however people KNOW that they cannot trust reports from born from either side of the argument, becuase they will will most likely be spin.

We're living in a perpetual case of a political "the boy who cried wolf", and until we can come to trust our leaders, we'll make encouraging noises, and then totally ignore everything they do.

If you want the public to take an issue seriously, then don't abuse the privilage.

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Paris Hilton

But what about

The paris hilton angle?

Does she do coke or coffee?

So, high caffeine drinks are better for the planet than coke snorting, can I get my geek pride saves the planet t-shirt out of the wash?

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Stop

So the drug on wars, err, war on drugs is working huh?

And surely this means the war on drugs must be pushed even harder, by that retarded logic that characterizes most governments? Can't they realise that their futile attempts at repression actually contribute to the damage instead of reducing it? All of the mentioned examples of adverse impact to the environment are a direct consequence of the criminalization of cocaine production. If cocaine production were legalized and adequately regulated, all these side effects would be effectively eliminated. But no, no government would do that in the foreseeable future because: 1) They must keep the facade of caring for the health of the people (and the children!!!!), even though the measures often do more harm than good and a pragmatic approach would work better 2) Corrupt government officials in production countries benefit from it.

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Dead Vulture

Huh?

Just about every environmentally-negative effect listed is purely due to the *prohibition* of cocaine, so shouldn't the headline be "Enforcing pointless cocaine laws is killing the planet"?

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Hah!

That'll be a dilemma for the Kensington set. Watch out for the BBC to suddenly turn sceptic. Or skeptic.

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Peru

Peru is where they grow it and Colombia is where they process it.Read stupids read. Do you think considering the price of cocaine anyone would grow stinking coffee if they had a choice.

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Tom

I'm surprised this hasn't come up before

When was the last time you were offered an organic line? Or an organic cigarette for that matter?

Unfortunately, one of the characteristics of an addict is not seeing the wider consequences of their habit. I therefore doubt that someone who doesn't care that they're boring all around them with inane chatter will be particularly bothered by another 4 m^2 of Colombian forest gone up their nostril.

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Paris Hilton

Yep..

Yeah, The environment will be the one thing a coke addict will worry about.

Paris, because..

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Alien

Unfair comparisons

Your points about the environmental destruction of the drug industry are correct, and not at all limited to the rainforest, cf. the toxic mess of a methamphetamine lab.

What would be the fastest way to correct this? Legalization and regulation, FFS. Prohibition means the most short-term-lucrative and easily concealed producers are the ones who succeed, and toss the rest of the planet.

Meanwhile, you compare the worst-practice cocaine labs with the most sustainable coffee plantations, then act like you're stating a significant fact when you point out that the latter has less impact than the former. If coffee was banned like coca, would it be cultivated the same way? Not on your life.

The GWOD is antithetical to human nature and is as unlikely to succeed as Prohibition. It's also responsible for the colossal epidemics of violent crime in the US and for the fact that one PERCENT of their entire population is now incarcerated.

Meanwhile, the GWOD places substantial barriers to the economic feasibility of hemp, which could singlehandedly reduce humanity's planetary impact. But it remains banned despite the plainly obvious fact it was banned in the first place because it threatened the wood pulp industry. THC was a scapegoat.

When will this lunacy stop?

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Paris Hilton

And others??

Very interesting point, but I'd rather like to know the impact of hops and cannabis on the environment, please.

Paris, because she knows a hell of a lot about some substances

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No-one's screaming at Coca-Cola

They make amounts of pharmaceutical grade cocaine every year as a by-product of the manufacture of Coca-Cola. Allegedly.

If we'd only learned to imbibe the stuff traditionally, rather than distill it into something that could get through our thick skulls, the South Americans would have a legal cash crop and if it was marketed properly, a competitor to tea and coffee, and we'd have a lot less arrogant delusionals running the world.

I once saw an image stuck to the side of a coffee machine at Nortel, it showed the effects various compounds had on spiders spinning their webs. The spider who was dosed with Carbon Monoxide, made a right mess out of it, the spider dosed with cannabis, obviously couldn't really be bothered, the one dosed with cocaine, completed in record time and the one dosed with coffee, produced an erratic web not too dissimilar to the CO dosed spider. The point being made was, and it stated this at the bottom, "tea drinkers are more productive". Not very scientific, granted, there was no spider dosed with tea for a comparison. But it made me laugh.

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Anonymous Coward

Lies

Dammed lies

and statistics.

Oh, and for every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert.

I am not now, and never have been a coke user, however, I do drive a car.

These people obviously don't have a substantive job and should be sacked.

rant not even started.

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Anonymous Coward

well

if you just let the farmers grow their cash crop legally I'm sure there'd be far less impact.

Or if we made other crops more profitable instead of screwing them over on taxes. Yes you can make dirt cheap coffee beans or cocoa - but if you start to process it well... visit tax heaven becouse you wont be able to ship that stuff to Europe or the states.

Cocain and Heroine (coca and poppy) are only grown becouse other crops are worthless. Of course there is criminal compulstion however farmers would be far less willing to put up with that if the could make similar sums selling other crops.

But that'll never happen becouse the west doesn't want to lose its strangle hold on the production side (the end products you buy in the supermarkets and local stores.) So until it's worth while growing other crops it's all about the coca and the poppy. (yeah yeah South American and Afghanistan far apart but the reasons are more or less identical.)

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Black Helicopters

Sans lois de drogue

"Snorting cocaine is an environmental crime whatever your views on drug use, scientists declared last week."

It is easy to arrive at this conclusion when production and consumption are illegal and these activities are forced into the shadows. If illicit drugs were manufactured in state of the art facilities with modern methods and waste treatment there is no reason it wouldn't be any more environmentally harmful than any other drug. Further, when legal, it is possible for the investment in permanent high efficiency production facilities and global competition would override the power of local gangs and drug cartels. The government would get tax revenue from the sale and distribution that could be placed into a trust fund for the recovery of addicts and politicians can still raid the fund for their own pet projects to keep the status quo.

Then again, "the scientists" probably weren't interested in determining if legal drug manufacturing was environmentally harmful and it's only a matter of time before coffee is linked to some sort of degenerative condition and banned on the pretext of public health or "for the children." Bah, who cares, the serotonin reuptake inhibitors are on me kids.

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Happy

Seems like another case against the US led "War on Drugs"

as all the problems outlined could be eliminated with government regulated farms and "fair trade" coke.

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Anonymous Coward

Nothing New. . .

"Growers then move to other areas, clear the native vegetation and start all over again."

This is nothing new I remember a 1987 National Geographic article detailing how the clamp down resulted in this behaviour. Ultimately this is why so much land is cleared. There's obviously just too much duplicity in this new organic, low carbon, powder snorting lifestyle.

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Stop

War On Drugs

I'm not going to defend obnoxious yuppies, but like most problems blamed on drugs, this actually appears to be because they are illegal. If drugs were legal the people growing them would be called farmers, you wouldn't need to raze rainforests to grow them and you could build modern processing plants that recycled the solvents used.

Think carefully every time a story like this comes up, would the problem be solvable if we weren't engaged in this ridiculous, destructive, unwinnable war on drugs?

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Alert

Shocked...

3rd world farming techniques might not be friendly to the environment? Producers of an illegal drug might not be concerned about using banned herbicides and other chemicals? Producers of a product legal everywhere and sold by multinational corporations are more likely to be eco-friendly?

Shocking...

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Happy

how to make cocaine production more eco friendy

"Finally, the Colombian government's efforts to eradicate the plantations only serve to exacerbate the situation. They use planes to spray herbicides over coca plantations, with predictably gruesome consequences for insects, amphibians and other plants in the area. Growers then move to other areas, clear the native vegetation and start all over again."

stop destroying the crop then maybe they wont need to keep moving and therefore stop then native vegetation from been destroyed thus cutting down on the CO2 emissions, etc from the planes flying and spray herbicides, the growers not having to clear vegetation as well as from the extra transportation emissions moving to the new hide out :)

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Go drugs

Yay, seems like we have a majority for the legalizion of drugs here (compromize, let's call it 'decriminalization', okay?). I am all for it, lived in Zürich back in the days and they solved their drug+petty and not so pretty crime problem within weeks by handing out the drugs for free. Ten years and counting, but the message seems to slowly spread.

P.S.: Good one, John H Woods, time we did something about the chocolate problem. All the teeth that could be saved!

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Dead Vulture

blood

aside from the environmental cost - how many murders per m^2 of plantation by the time it gets into british noses?

nice nosebleed you got there buddy

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Psylocybin

Is home grown, amusing and illegal but there doesn't appear to be vast swathes of the UK being decimated by swarthy hippies. If coke was legal the situation may be a little better environmentally but not by much. With legality , overnight the cartels would be exterminated by the drug companies ( who are much bigger and more powerful) and they would be raping S. American countries instead . Legalisation would just move the money around a bit.

It is very interesting to note that most of the posts on this issue have a kind of supporting tone for coke. If you really want to know what is good or bad for you don't read the papers or watch TV , subscribe to one or more of the excellent free science mags online, they are generally without political bias.

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Paris Hilton

It makes you weep

Yup, it's the war on drugs that is damaging the environment so better legalise drugs.

Morons.

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Is this not a good opportunity....

...to set up a discreet offsetting scheme for celebrities and media types to assuage their guilt. What's the going rate for 4m2 of reforestation work?

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No I'm not finished

What kind of airy-fairy world do you people live in? Have you never seen the destruction of a friend or family member or whoever by drug use? Maybe you should get out into the real world.

Perhaps you are of that silly Puritan mindset that thinks only weak (sinful) people can be adversely affected by the use of these 'recreational' drugs. Meaning of course that someone as wonderful as you would never be affected? Idiots. The success of these drugs is based on their addictiveness. Or are you dim enough to think that factor would be eliminated by legalising them?

Perhaps you think that legalising these drugs would allow their regulation? Honestly? Suddenly you have faith in government bureaucracy?

Comments about the 'poor third world farmers' make me laugh. It doesn't matter how much harm is done to other people (to your society) as long as that picturesque family can get by?

The more I read comments here the more I think "Bring on the surveillance cameras, give the police more rights to stop and search. It's the only way to protect ourselves from these idiots."

You want to see an end of the War On Drugs? Carpet bomb any area found to be producing them.

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Boffin

By b166er's Spider

The Caff in Tea is the same as that in an Expresso. So your Tea Spider would be just as screwed up. Drink Water (tap Water)

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Boffin

Hollywood and Red Ken have got it covered

You guys need to relax more. Obviously supermodels, actors and the like have already thought of this in advance, hence the popularity of the Toyota Prius over there. What they are doing (and forgive me for claiming this phrase as my own) is what we climate experts call "Cocaine Offsetting". The maths are much too complicated for you to worry about, but basically it boils down to "drive a smaller car so you can snort more coke".

Same thing in London. Everyone knows that's where most of the charlie goes, because that's where the media and banking industries are, so Ken is just increasing the various environmental taxes and cramming you into tubes and buses so that you can all have a toot without feeling guilty.

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Pirate

Illegal enterprises aren't concerned about their environmental impact?

I'll bet they don't offer health insurance or retirement plans, either. How shocking.

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Anonymous Coward

How about...

Cigarettes? Or pretty much anything else that involves manufacturing and later putting in a dump or on the street?

Humans shaft the environment, as do volcanoes, so quit trying to make a few of us who really don't care start caring, as it just makes us even less likely to care when we suffer through a frikkin' cold winter...

Still, now I have another silly reason to keep people away from Coke.

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Clearly what we need...

...is Tesco 'Finest' Organic Cocaine, hand grown by wizened ancient masters in a strictly controlled 'appellation' system, with single-forest premium varieties available. Certified Fairtrade and approved by Greenpeace.

carefully separated in marketing from Tesco Value Cocaine, for the proles...

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Rob
Happy

the drugs

actually gnuber, contrary to what gmtv seems to have taught you NOT everyone who tries "drugs" instantly becomes hooked and dies, THAT is utter nonsense, why would anyone try it?!? It takes a bit of effort to develop a dependancy on anything other than the truly addictive (and nasty) stuff like heroin or crack

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Happy

@ImaGnuber

Yes, I have seen family members damaged by drug use. Yes, it was their own stupid fault.

It's unbelievable that anyone can live in the UK without understanding the health risks of cocaine. Not only are they well described in school, but even the trashy gossip mags carry pics of septum-less celebutards (sorry) to ram home the message.

If adults of normal intelligence CHOOSE to take cocaine, and then get addicted, and ruin their lives, I could care less. Really. It's a risky activity, everyone knows this.

And if you're pointing the finger at puritans, you might look at the source of the main thrust of the war of drugs - the USA. That's been about as successful as the other "wars on stuff". Hasn't coke production soared in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion? Great result chaps.

Besides, what's the carbon footprint of a M1 Abrams tank?

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Stop

re: No I'm not finished

@ImaGnuber:

"Have you never seen the destruction of a friend or family member or whoever by drug use? Maybe you should get out into the real world."

Yup. Alcohol did that.

Oh wait, you're implying that the only drugs that can destroy families are the ones that our guardians have deemed illegal, and it's impossible for people to have a good time with no long-lasting effects with those drugs.

Maybe you're the one who should stop being foolish and stop trying to apply black and white morality to a complex subject. The real world is much more complex than that. Maybe you should get out into it a bit more.

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Stop

Pro Coke - why?

Anyone pro coke obviously hasn't been confronted with a knife wielding pleb, high as a kite. Coke is bad for society. Don't dress it up any differently.

Personally the 4sq metres of rainforest are the least of our worries. It's the psychosis some people suffer when they take it that kills other people, and the fact that people rob homes to obtain the necessary funds to take it.

Weed on the other hand turns people into dribbling hippies - so it's not all bad.

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@Gnuber

Hold the phone there sunshine. I'm an avid cocaine user and I'm not a mess.

I turned to drugs as a means of escaping the real life following a rough break up. During the height of my drug fueled days i spent many a weekend dribbling in a corner whacked out of my face on Ecstasy, Speed, Cocaine and Mushrooms. On the very rare occasion Ketermin.

Every Monday morning I returned to work on time and did as required of my job. I hurt no one in the process, in fact, according to my boss the one time I took phet during the working day my work improved dramitcally.

I've been clean from Pills, phet and Ket for four years this July but I still enjoy the odd bout of coke.

The crap education system that fuels "all drugs are bad" is the reason I experimented with Cocaine in the first place. Ecstasy didn't kill me. I suffered no perminant memory loss and I had me a bloody good time. When I failed to get addicted to Cocaine despite hoovering in a weekend more than your average touring funk band manage in a year I'd say its a fair assumption you and every other person is fed complete and utter bollocks from the government.

You want scary drug storys? Ok how about the idiot who got behind the wheel of a car and killed another? http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=drunk+driver+kills&meta= (1,910,000 results)

Do some research sunshine. If some one you know got addicted to drugs (with the exception of smack) its because he/she had an addictive personality...

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Joke

Yes, but.....

....can you make biofuel out of it?

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Anonymous Coward

@Gnubber

Drugs are bad mm'kay...

But the question is really do you treat the problem as a legal issue thereby criminalising the users and suppliers thereby getting them to do bad stuff on the sides.. Or do you treat it as a health issue and sort out the people who get problems in a medical setting?

Prohibition is clearly impossible, even with the entire population guarded under lock and key with a plethora of cctv cameras even prisons are still awash with drugs.

No matter how mean and nasty you may think the cigarette companies are they're a darn sight more pleasing to deal with than a criminal drug cartel.

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Anonymous Coward

AmanfromMars make more sense than some people here

Ok decriminalise drugs, and let the goverment tax it, yeah that will solve the problem

I have known quite a few people who are now either dead, in incredibly poor health (mental & physical). I even know a couple of people who are perfectly fine and happy. However the safe & sane ones are in the minority (by quite a large factor). You cannot predict who will become an addict and who will be the casual user until the damage is potentially done. The majority will fall into the damaged catagory.

The decriminalised method works incredibly well (having worked in Amsterdam for a considerable period in the 80s) there was never any drug influenced prostution, muggings, theft, buglarly or killings whatsoever. The authoritys did turn a pretty blind eye to the hardcore drugs and not just canabis. Oh sorry that statement differed slightly from reality.

For legalistation, the products would be highly taxed (considerably more so than alcohol or cigarettes), so there will always be a huge illegal market (look at illegal alcohol and tobacco in the UK) for the cheaper version. There was a lot of research done on this in regard to cannabis and a figure of about 12 - 15 quid per joint was predicted. So the illegal market will still continue.

Most of us know theres no such a thing as an instant addict, having been dosed with morphine (for a genuine medical reason). I would have no wish to repeat feeling and cannot understand how anybody would ever choose to use an opiate a 2nd time. Yeah an ex junkie friend described the same nausia the first few times he used heroin.

@Gnuber

I don't often agree with you but for once I will make an exception ;)

@Graham Jordan

So you took drugs big deal get over yourself and be quiet about your love afair with them. It's a bit like saying that every smoker has an addictive personality and thats the only reason they smoke. You are obviously stupid both in both word and action.

What about the others that your dealer supplied to that where not so fortunite, and the shit that those unfortuniate individuals cause the world at large, do they not count becasue it wasn't you? Sounds like you are still in love.

If it feels good you do it till you get tired of it, most people don't get tired of it until they lose everything. Weekends arn't enough, evenings arnt enough. Then you either lose your job or are not earning enough. So what then?

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@ Gnuber

"What kind of airy-fairy world do you people live in? Have you never seen the destruction of a friend or family member or whoever by drug use? Maybe you should get out into the real world."

No, I have never seen that destruction desoite having watched friends and family members take copious amounts of various drugs. They can not only drink sensibly, they can also smoke, snort and swallow sensibly.

You're trying to warn people of the unavoidable and inevitable consequences of drugs and their hidden dangers, but the very people that you are trying to convince disprove your argument by their very existence!

"Perhaps you think that legalising these drugs would allow their regulation? Honestly? Suddenly you have faith in government bureaucracy?"

No I don't have faith in government bureaucracy which is the precise reason that I don't listen to their obvious FUD around drug us. You, however seem to be fuly signed up Daily Mail subscriber.

By the way, the success of these drugs is not "based on their addictiveness", it's based on their effectiveness.

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Two words: Fairtrade Coke

"Anyone pro coke obviously hasn't been confronted with a knife wielding pleb, high as a kite."

Kind of. Only he was drunk rather than high. And yet I'm not for the banning of alcohol. Guess what - some of us actually define our political opinions through reasoned thought and research, rather than taking half from personal experience and half from the Daily Heil.

"Coke is bad for society. Don't dress it up any differently."

So is religion. Like alcohol, it's used safely by millions, and occasionally some moron high on it goes and kills people. Although with religion the bodycount tends to be much higher. We already have laws preventing cokeheads (and drunks and fanatics) going out and killing people, they have snappy names like 'murder' and 'assault' and 'rape'. Prohibition laws are about government power and have nothing to do with prevention of crime (real crime, the kind that hurts other people).

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@anonymous

"Anyone pro coke obviously hasn't been confronted with a knife wielding pleb, high as a kite. Coke is bad for society. Don't dress it up any differently"

No, but I've been confronted by plenty of plebs off their face on cheap lager. You can argue (correctly) ANY drug is bad for society, but then you can actually live in the real world and accept that people are going to do it anyway. Legalise it, make a shedload of tax revenue off it, kill the illegal distribution networks at a stroke, accept there are going to be casualites. But of course no government would have the balls, because we have to think of the children.

We really need a Maude Flanders icon...

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@ The make drugs legal team

Yes make drugs legal, sounds like the answer then the sad people who resort to this will be able to afford their habit more easily and won't have to go round stealing etc to feed their habit...it all makes sense.

Alternatively, those sad people with a habit could be less selfish and stop, cocaine could be eliminated altogether and then there would be one less thing to kill the environment. Imagine a world without drugs, I'd have thought it would be a nice place.

Now if the drugs barons aren't going to come quietly, we'll have to send Chuck Norris into Columbia (again) and harm the environment by blowing shit out of cocaine farms.

Another note, drug lords are tax dodgers!

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