Mark Easton seems to post quite often about drugs, not that I'm complaining as they tend to be pieces that go against the grain of typical reporting in the area. In fact most of what he says I find quite accurate.
His latest piece goes on the theme of unintended consequences. The theory is that whilst mephedrone was legal people were taking this instead of cocaine and ecstasy and that this drug is actually less harmful. Now that it is illegal people have moved from being able to buy it on the Internet to street dealers where the price is higher and the quality is less.
None of this is rocket science. If you prohibit the use of a drug and target all of your resources in restricting the supply then prices will rise. There is increased risk of the supply however the demand remains so people are willing to take the risk for the super-normal profits. In addition due to the increased risk profit margins will be increasingly looked at with production made cheaper (and therefore a less pure and more dangerous product). There will also be no legal method for the buyer to complain as the substance they are purchasing is illegal.
Prohibition continues to baffle me, people will always want to take drugs (unless there is a massive clamp down on the demand side but that is never going to happen). As such by making them illegal governments put these people at risk by not regulating the substances on the market and allow criminal gangs to use these substances in order to generate profits. If drugs were legal then large markets for organised crime would disappear instantly.
My opinion as I have stated many times is that the best way to combat drugs use is legalisation, taxation, regulation and education.
A more educated population will have the facts at their disposal to make educated choices. Regulation will ensure that the products are of satisfactory health requirements and not cut with other damaging chemicals. Taxation will bring in vital revenue streams (coupled with the decreased costs of prohibition), allowing governments to spend money on counselling, rehabilitation and education.
This will also bring drug users out of the shadows of society in order for them to get help where necessary when required.
I hope that Portugal continues with it's policies (as previously mentioned) so that they show the way to the rest of the world (to go even further).