Does the media follow public opinion or lead it? Probably a bit of both, but it is clear that the climate around drugs policy is changing in the public political and media spheres, and the momentum for change is building.
As we described yesterday, quite aside from the unabating stream of supportive op-eds, The Observer, The Guardian and Sunday People, (and the Daily Record in Scotland) have now all recently taken editorial lines in their leaders critical of the drug war and supportive of moves towards the legal regulation of drugs.
Today it is the turn of The Independent in a leading article "Mexico's stark reminder of the cost of prohibition" which details the now familiar horrors of the War on Drugs before saying:
"The President was obliged to send in the troops because the poorly paid Mexican police had been infiltrated by the cartels; even so, reports suggest that in some areas the latter's power is, if anything, growing. By this reading, the violence suggests merely that turf wars are becoming more vicious, for a larger slice of an ever more lucrative market. In short, Mexico and the US are losing the drug war...
Which brings us back to the root of the problem. If Americans lost their taste for drugs, the Mexican cartels would be out of business. That, however, will not happen; indeed the forbidden nature of drugs may make them more attractive. So why not legalise them? The argument has been powerfully made before and will be so again, but probably to no avail. Sadly the barbaric drug wars will continue."
This is backed up by a front page and double page spread, with an excellent opinion piece by Johan Hari; "Violence breeds violence.The only thing drug gangs fear is legalisation" which concludes:
"Yet Mexico is being pressured hard by countries like the US and Britain – both led by former drug users – to keep on fighting this war, while any mention of legalisation brings whispered threats of slashed aid and diplomatic shunning.
Look carefully at that mound of butchered corpses found yesterday. They are the inevitable and ineluctable product of drug prohibition. This will keep happening for as long as we pursue this policy. If you believe the way to deal with the human appetite for intoxication is to criminalise and militarise, then blood is on your hands.
How many people have to die before we finally make a sober assessment of reality, and take the drugs trade back from murderous criminal gangs?"
The Independent editorial's pessimistic appraisal that "the barbaric drug wars" will inevitably continue is misplaced. They will not; no policy as self evidently counterproductive as the drug war can stand the sort of scrutiny it is now receiving for ever. Like the targets of many of the large scale social justice movements of the last century, what once seemed immovable can unravel far more quickly than anyone expects once a tipping point is reached.
Four national UK newspapers have adopted unambiguous pro-reform editorial positions within three weeks. We could be nearer the tipping point than you imagine.