The global recession of 2008 dragged on until 2030. Ongoing efforts to stimulate markets and economies were thwarted by repeated attempts to rescue the failing economies of Europe. Inability to stabilise global financial markets saw many countries unable to solve their debt crises and as unemployment soared, civil unrest, migration, dislocation and crimes rates escalated, so did drug use in many places throughout the world.
The US, resistant to financial reform, had plunged into deep depression. The loss of much of its presence and credibility on the international stage due to debilitated markets and a distracted government led to the fracturing many international collaborations reliant on the US’s continued strength. Responding to social pressures to address the issue of rising domestic crime and social problems, the US began to scale back its international military and foreign aid commitments as part of its century long “war on drugs” in order to divert billions of dollars to solving its internal crises.
China also experienced depressed economic activity, its stability undermined by the global depression and the ecological consequences of its rapid growth. Food production in China was tenuous due to water shortages and repeated calamitous extreme weather events as the effects of climate change continued to impact globally. Drug and alcohol use was also endemic in China.
With their focus on managing the serious political and economic instability at home, the Chinese also sharply curtailed their investments in the developing world not related to food security.
In this environment, China invested heavily in new energy technologies and through this renewed growth period, managed to claw its way out of recession. Other nations who had decoupled their economies from fossil fuels, like Japan, India and Russia also began to experience economic growth and by 2050, it appeared that climate change would not reach runaway extremes as had been predicted.
On the international stage, the UN looked to address the crippled African continent, devastated by continued drought and famine, plunged into civil wars and chained to corruption and violence associated with the booming illegal drug trade whose main trafficking routes impacted with dire consequences in the trafficking corridor from China to Africa.
China, looking to protect its food security investments throughout a highly destabilised Africa, sought to bring the global narcotic trade under some sort of control, and looked for support through the UN (no longer dominated by US interests) to bring an end to the global prohibition of drugs as a failed policy. Negotiations over the decade from 2030 led to a series of international agreements culminating in the 2040 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Although resisted strongly by the US, Pakistan and other prohibition favouring nations, it received the support of many countries keen to end the punitive regime of global prohibition which had failed to curtail the highly destructive global illicit drug trade yet was costing hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain. Many states were in agreement because the huge tax revenues generated through drug regulation were seen as the key to assist their recovering economies.
Socially, the time was right for this change. For more than a century, the drug prohibition had drawn wide criticism. As the social problems in the prevailing economic downturn had, as always, led to increasing drug use, the wider social connectivity of global communications had spawned the incubation of new thoughts and broad community discussion about the ever worsening drug problems. Many felt that escalating drug crimes were the result of poverty and social despair, not the cause and that scarce funding should be directed away from border protection and smuggling, to dealing with the causes and health issues related to increased drug taking. And it seemed that only the powerful drug cartels were making money from society’s miseries, supported and driven by prohibition.
New agreements determined a global initiative to regulate all drugs according to scientifically determined scales of danger, rather than the apparently arbitrary, historic, moralistic and non- science based policies that had been in place through prohibition. The new global drug policy focused on regulation of drugs, now available and decriminalised, yet regulated through pricing and taxation, restrictions of availability depending on the consumer and the type of drug.
The new laws took some time to come into effect as there needed to be a smooth evolution to the new “psychoactive drug paradigm”.
By 2050, all drugs had been scientifically reclassified. Many drugs, such as tobacco and alcohol, were subject to tighter regulation through pricing, taxation or age restrictions. Other previously illegal drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine or opium became legal, yet restricted in the same way as tobacco, but priced and regulated according to their level of danger or health ill effects. All drugs became available in less innocuous forms, so that while cocaine in its powdered form remained expensive and available through pharmacies, coca leaves could be readily bought at many outlets. Morphine became available in medical situations only while mild opium syrups could be purchased without prescription, for those who chose the traditional approach, with the excitement of variability.
China’s huge investment in energy technology had spread into many areas of biotechnology. The new, less judgmental societal view of the altered state experience had allowed development of new technologies that could provide custom made, mind altering journeys through technological rather than chemical means. People who chose to, could now specify their effect of choice, for a given time period, delivered online to individual microchip implants, safe, controlled and without side effect. Even short lived hallucinogens were available provided they were taken at approved venues where care and protection were offered to those who wished to partake.
Growers of opium poppies, coca and other plants that were used in drug production now registered with appropriate national bodies and converted from illicit production to growing legal industries. Small time traffickers still had insignificant markets, but these were almost artefact industries with safer legal options now readily available.
The complete dismantling of the illegal drug trade meant adjustment periods in the developing countries which had been entangled in the network of the illicit trade for so long. But as new industries developed, with the aid of nations experiencing the new boom times of the 2050s, crime rates dropped, violence subsided, human trafficking and corruption reduced and the political landscape of many impoverished nations began to stabilise.
The cycle of drug abuse in many communities was disrupted through the removal of the avenue of crime to drugs, incarceration rates dropped, resulting in further associated crime reduction. Community health care and education helped to dramatically reduce drug use that was occurring as economies recovered and dire social circumstances improved.
The basis of the new global drug policy was based on the fact that psychoactive drugs have always, and probably will always be used. Some people will invariably be inclined to act in risky or detrimental fashion, but most will curtail their intake or inebriating activities to moderate levels. Moreover, in the ever present need to find moderation, society will act so the pendulum tends to swing until it finds a position of balance.