“This house would end the war on drugs”

Proposition speakers: Merton College David Brown. Dr Huppart, MP for Cambridge, Richard Cowan, editor of Marijuana news, Mark Thornton, economics of prohibition. 

Opposition speakers: Joe Miles, Kathy Gingale columnist for the Daily Mail, Professor Neal McCain, director of Centre for Drug Misuse and finally Ms Sarah Graham.

The case for the proposition:

Political double standards:

The proposition opened this evening’s debate, arguing that there is no principle underlying how the state decides between criminalisation and decriminalisation.  An example was made of alcohol, which kills millions of people a year while there hasn’t been one case of confirmed death by marijuana. 

The proposition maintained that once a person becomes an adult, they have the right to make their own decisions. Educated adults should be allowed to weigh the dangers and risks of drug taking against the benefits. They should be allowed to make their own decisions.

Handing dealers the power: 

The criminalisation of drugs gives black market dealers a monopoly on the sale of narcotics. 

Proposition speakers pointed to cases in Mexico where the criminalisation of drugs led to  a marked increase in murders between 2006 and 2010 when cartels armed themselves against security services and civilians.

A war doomed to failure:

The war on drugs  is a political statement.  The public looks for results, but the government doesn’t care how it gets these results. Speakers asked audience members to look at the case of Al Capone – prohibition makes the mafia money, which gives them more money for weapons and for protecting themselves against security services.

The case for the opposition:

We should not hold up Cannabis as our example: 

 The current system for dealing with cannabis prevention is not sufficient.  However, this only proves that one particular substance is being handled badly. We should not pronounce a verdict of no confidence upon the entire war on drugs on account of a failure in one area.

Instead, the opposition urged audience members to remember the evil of these illegal substances:

The opposition argued that we are talking here of the most damaging substances; substances which have done nothing for civilization; substances which ruin peoples’ lives. For these reasons alone, the war on drugs is justified 

Our war is liberal, not punitive:

The very term, “war on drugs” is misleading. Far from punitive, our law on drugs is liberal. While there have been no deaths by cannabis, the psychological effects of cannabis are extremely dangerous – it is not that we have not had enough freedom, it is that we have had too much.

We must stand up to drug addicts: 

The opposition argued that a philosophy of “tough love” is needed in dealing with drug addicts. They claimed that we need to stand up to drug addicts by enforcing rules.

The verdict: 

The debate ended in a draw and Union President Ben Sullivan had a casting vote, which meant that the opposition won.



  1. Crut

    12th June 2014 at 16:31

    –“remember the evil of these illegal substances.”

    Why are they evil? Is Alcohol evil? How about Tobacco? I can overdose on Water… is it also evil? Are they evil because they are illegal? Marijuana was only supposed to be temporarily placed in Schedule 1 until a study was performed. And when that study concluded that Marijuana should NOT be criminalized, it was overruled and in Schedule 1 it stayed…

    –“The opposition argued that we are talking here of the most damaging substances; substances which have done nothing for civilization; substances which ruin peoples’ lives. For these reasons alone, the war on drugs is justified”

    Nothing for civilization? You are poorly misinformed, would you like anecdotal evidence or scientific sources? And ruining peoples’ lives? A record of arrests can ruin a person’s life significantly more harshly than nearly any drug. And an honest look at available addiction therapy methods is enough to drive someone to drink…

    –“it is not that we have not had enough freedom, it is that we have had too much.”

    Your desire to punish is showing. Just because you can’t handle more freedom doesn’t allow you to restrict mine. I can responsibly handle my drugs, and don’t need a less-informed authority to make my choices for me.

    –“They claimed that we need to stand up to drug addicts by enforcing rules.”

    Oh, please. The best way to really show the true nature of a bad law is to enforce it vigorously. The only reason the War on Drugs has lasted as long as it has is that the actual problematic elements of the drugs themselves are very tiny, and the enforcement has been inconsistent and ineffective to a scale unprecedented by any other government program in recorded history. So please, if you can, enforce the rules that are in place. You will end the Drug War far more quickly and efficiently than the activists ever could.

  2. Remmy Skye

    13th June 2014 at 12:04

    Indulge me for a moment, please. As presumptuous as this may sound, speaking as an active heroin user for more than a decade, this article and sadly, the debate and it’s outcome only further add fuel to so much prejudice. I am an American, an often homeless drug lover (I resent the term addict. The “treatments” and what have you discussed have thoroughly been proven not to work. What you need to know is, almost every rehab facility has it’s primary treatment platform based on 12 step philosophy. 12 step philosophy is also known as Alcohol/Narcotics anonymous. The only significant study ever done to deduce just how successful 12 step is, showed a hilarious 5 percent success rate. Those who would call me addict have no true authority to do so. I prefer heroin lover, heroin purveyor, heroin enthusiast, heroin extremist etc. etc. I am not being sarcastic in the least.) there is a resounding opinion amidst the general public that the Oxford University is this global, elite educational society. While, in addition to that, there is, along with that opinion, also the idea that these elite Oxford intellectuals sit in highly propped up old cackling wooden chairs with masses of grey haired wigs spilling over shoulder and neck. A stuffiness, elitism, collective arrogance and ignorance embodied perhaps in the notion that the Oxford uniform is none other than replica Red Coat army coats worn during the American Revolution. The Oxford commoner, adorned in the Red Coats, of course, in this presumption, is also forced to speak perfect King’s English as well. Personally, I think this ridiculous cartoon like image of the Oxford student is wholly justified after reading this piece. It is very clear to me that nobody involved in this discussion has been in the true trenches of the war on drugs and if they were then it’s only as a profiteer. Anyone who has, as a direct result of prohibition making a 1$ product 10$ (and then needing 100$ worth a day) lost their homes, friends, families, material possessions etc. can tell you, everything you’ve written and said is wrong. The most important thing I would wish to impress upon you all is that 1980’s “tough love” it kills. That’s what it does. That’s all it does really. First it kills relationships, then it kills the ostracized person. As much as I absolutely hate and (sadly) judge anybody affiliated with 12 step, I can agree with them that no user will truly ever stop unless they want to. What do you think “tough love” accomplishes? YOU’RE FREAKIN’ OXFORD! THE SMARTEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD! C’MON! YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER! I’M A HOMELESS JUNKIE! HOW CAN A HOMELESS SMACK LOVER SERIOUSLY KNOW BETTER THAN THE GENIUSES AT OXFORD! This must be some kind of a joke, eh? Some of that infamous English dry humor? This must be Oxfraud, some kind of dry humor English joke. You got me, you saucy Brits! I admit, you got me! … Oh, it’s not a joke. Tough love forces people who don’t want to do something into doing something that deep inside, whether they’re ready to admit it or not, they simply do not want to stop doing at any cost. And is it so bad? I guarantee you that a decently tenured heroin user would shock any of these opposition people insofar as I can bet you that, if circumstances could be arranged, the heroin user would meet the opposition member in secret, hang out with them for a whole day and then tell them afterwards “you know, everytime I went to the bathroom, I shot up dope. When we met, I’d already shot a 3 bagger.” I guarantee the opposition person would have had no clue. Stunned, I would say. Furthermore, they certainly wouldn’t be able to realize something was amiss, say, as they would be able to, if a drunkard approached. I am really saddened by this piece. Oxford, shame on you.

  3. Anonymous

    13th June 2014 at 14:40

    The drug war is a scam, a festering collection of lies, innuendo, bigotry, hatred and fear. Prohibition has never stopped even one child from getting their hands on drugs. Drug war ensures that more than One Billion Dollars per day will flow into the coffers of terrorists, cartels and gangs who make their living selling contaminated drugs to our children. Those who believe in drug war obviously do NOT believe in public safety.

  4. Dale Holmgren (@daleholmgren)

    30th June 2014 at 19:03

    Well, of course the drug war should be ended – the last 40 years have proven it cannot be won, and we have spent billions trying to prove otherwise. The advocates of the drug war use arguments against drugs, yet somehow never find the gumption to advance their argument that all things that cause harm to some (gambling, alcohol, skydiving, mountain climbing) should be likewise banned. No, it always seems to begin and end at drugs. If banning things that “have never done anything for civilization” is the standard, why have we not banned smoking altogether – what have cigars done to advance civilization?

    Yet, the anti-drug argument still wins the day at Oxford, of all places, with the lamest, hole-ridden logic.

  5. Mugzy Payton (@mugzypayton)

    1st July 2014 at 16:06

    I just want to know who those legs under the table belong to. rrrrowl

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