It is very easy for drug prohibitionists to call drug law reformers “soft on drugs”. This appellation evokes thoughts of weakness, lack of resolve or direction and giving up in the face of a difficult problem. Being “hard on drugs” conjures up images of a mighty struggle against a fearsome enemy, and facing up to adversity with strength, resolve and a certain amount of heroic self-sacrifice. Admirable traits.
No wonder politicians like to present themselves as being hard on drugs; and no wonder most people are concerned about, and reject, a soft approach.
We need to change the language, to choose a different terrain on which to stand, to describe our position truthfully and convincingly.
We need to talk about being “smart on drugs”. People are much more likely actively to consider the choice between “hard on drugs” and “smart on drugs” without automatically dismissing the latter. It’s much easier to choose the smart option, involving thoughtfulness in the face of a seemingly intractable problem, the application of reason, the consideration of all options, managing resources more effectively in a time of restraint and actually doing something that might work.