Pirate Policies on Drugs – Discuss

Pirate Policies on Drugs – Discuss

Pirates tend to be for the decriminalization or legalisation of various recreational drugs that are currently illegal in most countries. The principle target of these policies is marijuana but some want to see most soft drugs made available in accordance to the amount actual harm that is done to the user and society at large. Alcohol is often used as a benchmark, as it is legal in most of the countries where Pirate Parties have been founded. Professor David Nutt produced a list of  drugs in regular use in the United Kingdom and ordered them by harm.

Harm caused by drugs table C C BY-SA 3.0 by Wikipedia user Tesseract2

Harm caused by drugs table
C C BY-SA 3.0 by Wikipedia user Tesseract2

Recreational drugs

Several counties, such as the Netherlands and Portugal  are experimentung with relaxing the laws around marijuanna. Strangely, the most liberalisation is currently in the USA where marijuanna for medical and recreational use is being made available for legal purchase in some states. New Zealand has made soft drugs, many synthetic cannabinoids, available for sale so long as their safety could be demonstrated. However, after a confused change of policy on animal testing all “legal highs” were banned. The Prime Minister declared that while testing would be performed on rats he would not permit rabbits to be used. On learning that testing on just one species was not adequate the government banned all available products in a knee jerk reaction.

Drugs used in Sports

There is also the increasing use of performance enhancing drugs in sport. Here the notion of cheating is brought to bare on the argument. The use of unfair methods to gain an advantage in sporting competitions is as old as the ancient Olympics. The regulators always seem to be one step behind in the chemical game of catch up in a seemingly endless race. There is also the fitness and body building scenes where currently illegal drugs are available to supress appetite and increase the effectiveness of excercise. Should Pirates be campaigning to allow their use where the risks are low and confined to those who freely choose to take them knowing fully the risks and side-effects?

Drugs used in Work and Study

Recently we are seeing a new use for drugs in the worlds of work and academia. For decades truck drivers and other workers who need to concentrate for long periods, have been using stimulants to enable them to get through the day. Students have also discovered that prescription drugs such as ritalin and piracetam, used to treat ADHD and other disorders, can increase concentration and stamina when studying. These nootropics are widely available and in use. The ethical considerations to be taken here are whether this should be regarded as unfair over students who do not take such drugs. This is even more complicated when one realises that transcranial direct-current stimulation is cheap, legal, undetectable and safe. The worst side-effect is an itchy scalp.

A female surgeon in operating theatre


The ethics here are not easy to get a handle on.  If we make a small thought experiment you can see what I mean. We have a surgeon who must undertake a risky, long and highly technical operation. She takes a performance enhancing drug that has no serious side effects. As a concequence the life of the patient is at less risk and the chance of success is greatly increased. Should she be allowed to take it. Should she be morally bound to take it?

Pirates are at the bleeding edge of  innovative policy creation.

If  a Pirate Party wants to have a drugs policy it would be a good idea to conduct a full and informed discussion and make it comprehensive.



Featured image: ParentingPatch (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons