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  1. Balzafire
    There's a growing recognition that Labour's incoherent drugs policy has failed. Let's build a science-based replacement

    Last week Professor Roger Pertwee called for cannabis to be licensed for sale, and now Tim Hollis, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead officer on drugs, has said the current criminalisation-based approach to policing cannabis use should be reviewed. Pertwee and Hollis are bringing a welcome breath of fresh air to the debate about drugs and the harm they do.

    The government now has the chance to take a genuinely science-based approach to drugs policy. Labour took an extremely distorted and punitive view of cannabis. It rejected both scientific evidence and public opinion that its harms were relatively modest and reclassified it to Class B status under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act so that possession for personal use can now result in up to five years in prison. Worse, Labour also instigated a policy of pursuing users with an almost religious fervour with police sniffer dogs assisting in interventions at tube stations and other places where users might be easily sequestered and searched.

    Why was this done? It appears that Labour believed that cannabis was very harmful to mental health; especially that it caused schizophrenia. Yet as the advisory body the ACMD pointed out in its 2008 cannabis review, to stop one case of schizophrenia more than 5,000 young men would have to be prevented from ever using cannabis. This statistic negates any meaningful value in controlling cannabis to improve mental health.

    Labour also held the view that punishment would reduce use and hence harms. There is no meaningful evidence in favour of this view. The evidence we do have – for example, from the experiences with decriminalisation in the Netherlands and some Australian states – is that decriminalisation leads to a reduction in harms.

    Science cannot determine alone what the framework for drugs regulation should be. But if policy is not grounded in the science it can easily collapse into prejudice, moralism and authoritarianism. The chaos earlier this year over the "legal high" mephedrone raised very significant issues of evidence in relation to new drugs of unknown harm. Alcohol is legal yet is producing growing levels of damage which are well detailed in government reports but recommendations for harm reduction are not acted upon. A recent scientific review of drug harms, originally published in The Lancet, found that many class A drugs are in fact less harmful than alcohol. This raises further questions over the coherence of current drugs laws.

    In the face of a rising tide of dissatisfaction with the intellectual rationale for the current drugs laws, the coalition should seize the opportunity to establish a genuinely science-based approach to drugs policy.

    David Nutt
    21 September 2010


  1. Tamis
    It's all (very slowly) coming down... for financial reasons essentially...
    I begin to doubt that what is happening can even be stopped !

    A vast majority of european nations will promptly follow the usa on this matter...
    We're talking about taxing a whole lot of money here, just wait and watch as it unfolds !
  2. Erumelithil
    It boggles the mind to think of the resources wasted in policing and prosecution in regard to marijuana.
    How many police and courtroom man hours are spent on something so harmless each year?

    It's stands to reason that in times of financial crisis, policies on things such as marijuana will be reappraised so that states can better direct their limited resources.

    Of course, maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.
  3. godztear
    This piece of the article brought up a point to me that I hadn't thought about yet. What is going to happen to the search dogs after the legislation gets passed making marijuana legal? Drug dogs are trained for an array of smells, I think it would be hard to make them "forget" the smell of marijuana which could lead to a lot of unjustified searches.
  4. Erumelithil
    Hehe, that's an interesting point. I assume they would have to be given early retirement....
    I think that full pension and benefits would only be fair :laugh:

    Seriously though, it would be nice to think that they would be given away to good homes, but I can imagine serious problems with that. You would never be able to take the dog out for a walk unless you wanted to end up being dragged about by him as he followed every passer by with a lingering smell of cannabis on them.
  5. C.D.rose
    Haha, no, in fact these dogs "work" a little different. They get trained to detect certain smells through game, and whenever a dogs searches a car or anything, he is basically playing. They cannot play all the time though, and in fact these searches demand them quite some energy. After a certain amount of time searching, a dog has to rest for an extended period of time before he can be "activated" again. Thus, they only do this when told, and for a certain period of time, i.e. until the game is over.

    Which is probably why a friend of mine once went to the airport to pick up someone, and when he noticed that two police officers with a dog were coming in his direction, it came to his mind that he had weed in his pocket. He could have hardly run away with them being 10 to 15 meters away from him, so he just decided to do nothing, and the cops and the dog passed by him without any problem. It may as well be that it was a dog trained to detect explosives, but at any rate, these dogs are not in "search mode" all the time.
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