[h1]Illegal drugs cost the country £16bn a year, says charity Transform [/h1]
[h2]Illegal drugs cost the country more than £16 billion a year in crime, health and policies to tackle the illicit trade, a charity has warned. [/h2]
Transform said measures to tackle prohibition were a waste of money and called for all drugs to be legalised, claiming it would save more than £10 billion a year.
But the Home Office instantly dismissed the call insisting legalisation would increase drug abuse, not lessen it.
A cost analysis study for Transform concluded that drugs prohibition is "delivering precisely the opposite of the Government's stated claims" because supply and use is increasing, health problems are growing and there remain huge levels of crime.
The report said the combined effects of crime, health and costs relating to drug prohibition policies leave the taxpayer with an annual bill of £16.785 billion a year.
In contrast, it estimates that legalising and regulating all drugs would cost just £5.951 billion a year, therefore saving the public some £10.834 billion.
It said the Government has wasted £100 billion in the last decade tackling the illicit drugs market and "will pour a similar amount down the drain over the next decade, if it does not substantially change its policy".
Transform head of research Steve Rolles said: "It is unconscionable that UK drug enforcement spending continues to deliver such appalling outcomes, whilst remaining immune to meaningful scrutiny and evaluation.
"Even by the Government's own measures it is now clear that drug enforcement is causing more harm than the drugs themselves.
"There can no longer be any excuses for not carrying out a comprehensive Impact Assessment to count the real costs of its drug policy, and explore alternatives approaches. That the Government has ignored its own principles and rules in failing to do so is a disgrace - even more so given the current economic crisis."
But a Home Office spokesman said: "Drugs are controlled because they are harmful. The law provides an important deterrent to drug use and legalisation would risk a huge increase in consumption with an associated cost to public health.
"The legalisation of drugs would not eliminate the crime committed by organised career criminals; such criminals would simply seek new sources of illicit revenue through crime. Neither would a regulated market eliminate illicit supplies, as alcohol and tobacco smuggling demonstrate."
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor 7:53AM BST 07 Apr 2009
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