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