Opinions - The really tough way to control drugs is to license them

Discussion in 'Drug Policy Reform & Narco Politics' started by Lunar Loops, Nov 28, 2006.

  1. Lunar Loops

    Lunar Loops Driftwood Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    2,393
    Messages:
    1,707
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2006
    from ireland
    Interesting article from The Sunday Times (UK):


    The really tough way to control drugs is to license them

    Simon Jenkins
    [​IMG]A young American friend last week visited Camden Lock, north London, and returned amazed. In a hundred yards he was offered brazenly in the street just about every drug he could imagine. It was easier to buy cannabis or cocaine than a cigarette or a can of beer. The experience could have been repeated in any city centre in Britain. The drug market is totally unregulated and as a result totally dangerous. Welcome to 10 years of Tony Blair’s “war on drugs”. This war makes the war on terror look like a pushover. The latest figures from the European drug monitoring agency indicate that Britain leads the continent in cocaine and heroin use and is equalled only by Denmark for cannabis. Given how often prohibitionists abuse Holland’s proactive drugs policy, it is worth noting that twice as many Britons as Dutch use cocaine and a third more use cannabis. With 327,000 so-called “problem users” (up a quarter on the last estimate), Britain is far worse than France, Germany and Italy.

    Meanwhile, despite billions being spent on policing, trade in these substances is booming and price plummeting. Adjusted for inflation, the prices of ecstasy and heroin are both down by a half in five years. Cocaine is down by 22% and cannabis down by 19%. In Britain a gram of cocaine cost £65 in 2000 and £51 today. An astonishing 10% of 15 to 34-year-olds admit to using cocaine in the past year, topped only by 30% who admit to using cannabis. This renders any statistics of “the incidence of crime in Britain” meaningless. A third of the population are guilty. Last year alone 14 new psychoactive drugs were detected by the police, led by the powerful “crystal meth”.
    Carel Edwards, the European Union’s drug enforcer, reflected last week that “after 50 years of a moral international crusade to reduce the drugs problem, the results are not exactly brilliant”. To add to his woes, Europe is about to be hit by a record Afghan opium harvest, supplying 90% of its consumption. After the 2001 invasion, suppressing Afghanistan’s poppy crop was hilariously assigned to the British government. It was like the United Nations assigning Libya and Zimbabwe to its human rights committee. Why should Britain control supply abroad when it refused to control demand at home?
    British drugs policy is a disaster. Parliament’s refusal for more than a third of a century even to amend the prohibitionist 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act is the most damning comment on the state of politics today, in thrall to the tabloid mob. The 1971 act must be the only criminal justice statute not to have been rewritten a dozen times by Tory and Labour governments. Charles Clarke and John Reid pass four terrorism acts a year, yet not one to tackle the drug market. The act contributes to the deaths of hundreds of young people each year. It stokes violent crime and impoverishes families and communities, while giving Britain the biggest prison population in Europe. Yet nobody in politics has the guts to touch it.
    The police are clearly fed up: 60% of all recorded crime is estimated to be drug related. Last Wednesday Howard Roberts, chief constable of Nottinghamshire, pleaded for the umpteenth time for reform. To a policeman it is crazy for the Home Office to ignore a legal prohibition that contributes to 432 offences at a cost of £45,000 a year per addict, including stabbings and murders. The total price of hard drug prohibition is put by the Home Office itself at a staggering £ 15 billion a year.
    Roberts pointed out that the much vaunted treatment by methadone substitution has not worked, with a cure rate of barely 3%. Since local authorities must pay for treatment from their discretionary budgets, they are going for the cheaper methadone substitution option, as result of which more costly residential places in heroin treatment centres lie empty. Yet to the nation the latter programme, costing £12,000 a place but with a success rate of more than a third, is far better value for money. The Dutch and Swiss have achieved significant reductions in heroin addiction by treatment through controlled prescription. They have also achieved a marked fall in crime by addicts. Yet Downing Street seems unable to “join up” its drugs policy as can other countries.
    Not just policemen but judges, prison reformers and charities such as DrugScope, Drugsline, Addaction, Adapt, and Action on Addiction cry continually for a review of policy. There have been enough independent reviews to fill a library. I served on one myself, the Police Foundation inquiry into the 1971 act in 2000. Professor David Nutt of the government Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs told MPs last Wednesday about the absurdity of ecstasy, used by 500,000 young people each week, being graded alongside heroin. Yet all Vernon Coaker, the hapless drugs minister, could reply was that drugs policy was “a matter of political judgment”. In other words, he had delegated it to the staff of The Sun.
    This week an international group of present and former police chiefs called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is in Britain to lobby for reform. Jack Cole, its American spokesman, points out that when alcohol prohibition was ended in 1933 “we put Al Capone out of business overnight — and we can do the same to the drug lords and terrorists who make over $500 billion a year selling illegal drugs round the world”.
    Prohibitionists respond that “if only” these policemen enforced the law and threw all drug users in jail there would be no market for the dealers and no need for addicts to commit crime. Thus a Yorkshire magistrate last week complained about a 15-year-old accused of murdering his brother after seven cans of lager and “several” joints. He blamed government leniency towards cannabis — rather than the magistracy’s notorious leniency towards drunkenness.
    The prohibition lobby has held the floor for more than 30 years and has run out of both arguments and time. The home secretary could hire gangs of vigilantes to roam every community and shoot drug users on sight. This might increase street prices, stem consumption for a year or two and deter some middle-class offspring. But this is not serious debate. Southeast Asia has capital punishment for drug use and yet drug use is rife.
    I have studied the impact of drugs and regard them as varying from the mildly harmful to the utterly lethal. I would recommend nobody to use them other than medicinally, like amphetamines. But to call for the ruthless enforcement of a law that has patently lost consent (even among opinion pollsters) is not “tough on drugs”, merely a cop-out.
    There must be more drug enforcement bureaucrats in Whitehall and police headquarters across the country, achieving nothing, than there are workers combating addiction in the field.
    The prohibitionists think that by passing laws they are curing a problem. In reality universal drug availability ensures just two things. An industry catering to almost a third of Britons (reputedly with a turnover similar to that of the petrol or drinks industries) prospers uncontrolled and untaxed. At the same time the quality of its product is unregulated and therefore at risk of adulteration. The dilution of cocaine has recently been shown to be highly carcinogenic. Crooks are making millions out of killing people.
    Most drug users can handle the harm it undoubtedly does them personally. To this extent there is no justification for the state interfering in a private activity. As with the control of alcohol, the regulation of outlets should be required only to protect minors, prevent adulteration and collect taxes. Other European countries are moving in this direction, at least with ecstasy, cannabis and heroin.
    Britain must find a way of legalising supplies. Only then can smuggling and racketeering be suppressed. How this is achieved is a subsidiary matter and a good subject for a committee. But the prohibitionist softies must first be outgunned. They are the true enemies of drug control. This market will never go away. The only tough policy is to regulate it. More people die each year from adulterated drugs than from terrorism. The cost of prohibition both to the state and to the community is colossal. The illicit market in drugs undermines Britain’s communities and subverts British values far more than any Muslim cleric or rucksack bomber. It will never be confronted until the counterproductive prohibitionist 1971 act is repealed.
     
    1. 5/5,
      Good find
      Nov 28, 2006
  2. Nature Boy

    Nature Boy Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    1,984
    Messages:
    3,931
    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    from ireland
    Another interesting and compelling article stressing the need for a change in drug policy. I wonder if we're hitting a turning point or whether this is all just hot steam.
     
  3. Zentaurus41

    Zentaurus41 Palladium Member

    Reputation Points:
    415
    Messages:
    586
    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2006
    from guatemala
    Get every one to write to their mps declaring a reform of the current drug laws or write something up and go collecting signitures to hand in. Sitting around talking about change wont realy do anything.

    After swims mesc case is over he shall begin writing letters.
     
  4. Bajeda

    Bajeda Super Moderator Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    4,741
    Messages:
    4,366
    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    from U.S.A.
    I don't know if there is something similar in the UK, but in the US for marijuana reform there are groups like NORML and for psychedelic studies organizations like MAPS. Helping out with groups like these can also help the situation, so if there is something comparable in the UK it may be worthwhile to send them a message and ask what you can do to help.
     
  5. grecian

    grecian Iridium Member

    Reputation Points:
    302
    Messages:
    334
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2004
    from aruba

    I only know ones for cannabis:

    www.ukcia.org/ (activists group)

    www.lca-uk.org/ (political party)
     
  6. Bajeda

    Bajeda Super Moderator Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    4,741
    Messages:
    4,366
    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    from U.S.A.

    Nice. I don't live in the UK so I'm not involved in that whole scene. Where I am the local chapter of NORML has had pretty good success in regards to education and political activity, and is trying to expand, so I would suggest people in the UK who are interested check out those groups and possibly search for others to see if there is anything they can do to help. Or they can take their own initiative and write some legislators.
     
  7. grecian

    grecian Iridium Member

    Reputation Points:
    302
    Messages:
    334
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2004
    from aruba
    This is untrue, anyone familiar with camden and the city centres of Britain will tell you that camden is an exception, to my knowledge rivalled only by Brixton (South London).

    "Skunk, weed?" is the signature line used to passers-by of avaliability, beware though in my experience the stuff they sell is not worthy of the name, and these people will generally try to take you for every penny you own, so be careful.
     
  8. grecian

    grecian Iridium Member

    Reputation Points:
    302
    Messages:
    334
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2004
    from aruba
    This is untrue, anyone familiar with Camden and the city centres of Britain will tell you that Camden is an exception, to my knowledge (and please correct me if I'm mistaken) rivalled only by Brixton (South London).

    "Skunk, weed?" is the signature line used to inform passers-by of avaliability, beware though in my experience the stuff they sell is not worthy of the name, and these people will generally try to take you for every penny you own, so be careful.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2006
  9. Lunar Loops

    Lunar Loops Driftwood Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    2,393
    Messages:
    1,707
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2006
    from ireland
    Bajeda, Transform are an excellent organisation in the UK pushing for a change in legislation on all drugs. They have produced an excellent document entitled 'After The War On Drugs - Options for Control' that can be found in the the file archive under the Law section.

    This is how they cover the recent spate of articles in The Times in particular (http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com/2006/11/drug-policy-debating-bonanza-in-times_27.html) :

    Drug policy debating bonanza in the Times


    The Times has embraced the recent flurry of drug policy stories with more enthusiasm than any of its broadsheet rivals. The ‘paper of record’ ran a pretty decent leader on the prohibition / legalisation debate, highly critical of the obvious failings of prohibition (it doesn’t work, it causes crime etc) and at least reasonably sympathetic to the ‘legalisation lobby’.

    The leader, however, cautions that:

    “It is tempting to hope that legalisation might cut out much of this violence and crime, by removing most of the profit margin from the drugs barons. However, while the legalisation lobby makes a persuasive case, there is a lack of clarity about how exactly its ideas would work in practice. If harm reduction is the aim, can one be sure that harm reduction would really be achieved? Reducing prices might remove incentives for criminals to supply the market. But would it not also result in an increase in addicts, because drugs would be even more easily available more cheaply? Would the act of legalising in itself send a powerful signal that Parliament is condoning drug taking? And might regulated companies acting above-board not be even more effective at marketing these substances than the drugs barons have been, with their access to more conventional methods of advertising? And if half of all beds for drug treatment are empty, as we report today, is the Government really doing all it can to treat addicts successfully?”


    Most of these concerns are perfectly reasonable – and if these are the only obstacles to real reforms then the future is indeed looking bright. Transform are working hard with our colleagues in the UK and around the world to show how legal regulation of drug markets can ‘work in practice’, including how drug production and supply, specifically marketing can be appropriately controlled – far more effectively than with the completely deregulated criminal markets we have today. A detailed report on exactly this is due for pulication in 2007. To read discussion on the impact of policy changes on prevalence (beyond prohibitions transparent failure to reduce it), and the idea of using criminal law enforcement as a way of 'sending out messages', take a look at Transform’s report ‘After the war on drugs – Options for control’ which has a chapter addressing these very concerns. The leader’s final point about treatment beds is a bit randomly tacked on the end and has nothing to do with the legal status of drugs.

    In an attempt at balance perhaps, the Times has also run a piece from a prohibitionist advocate, Patrick West, who is very against prescribing heroin to addicts - he want them locked up: it is unambiguously titled ‘The best treatment for heroin addicts? Arrest them’ . It’s a pretty sorry attempt at a counter-argument, more of a reactionary rant really, full of factual howlers and ill thought out arguments. He kicks off with saying Brian Paddick called for cannabis 'legalisation' in Brixton – Er, no he didn’t, he called for a shift in enforcement resources to more dangerous drugs, and non arrest for minor cannabis possession offences - which has now become national policy and cannabis use has fallen.

    He then goes for the nonsensical old chestnut that:

    Those who seek to legalise narcotics cry “the war on drugs has been lost”. One might as well also argue that “the war on murder has been lost” or that “the war on rape, theft, fraud, larceny and pyromania has been lost”. Like drug abuse, these are malaises that will always be with us, and no sane person believes they will ever be totally abolished.

    You begin to think you’re listening to someone from Nixon’s 1970's ‘war on drugs’ when he starts talking about ‘narcotics’, and then out comes the old ‘why not legalise murder’ argument just to confirm it for you. The response to this simplistic and shortsighted argument is that murder is a so-called ‘crime’ in the classical sense because it harms others, whereas consenting adult drug use clearly is not.

    Deftly avoiding such tricky distinctions we then hear West’s solution to the problem: “the most caring and the practical thing to do would be to prosecute and imprison users — to stop their habit.”

    Brilliant.

    Not content with advocating what we have already been doing, with disastrous consequences, for over 40 years, he is apparently completely ignorant of the fact that there are more drugs inside prison walls than there are outside. This is of course mainly because ‘caring’ and ‘practical’ views like his have led to prisons overflowing with drug addicts and drug dealers.

    We are then confidently informed that: “Contrary to the media myth perpetuated by movies such as Trainspotting, the typical heroin addict is as likely to be a sensitive, fragile, middle-class graduate as an aggressive, working-class misfit from the roughest of council estates,” which is just incorrect. There are indeed heroin users form all social strata, but all the research, undisputed by anyone I’ve encountered before (see for example the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report – ‘Drugs and the Environment’) shows very clearly that problematic use is most concentrated in socially deprived communities.

    His obvious confusion about addiction then takes a further nosedive into the ridiculous with the comment that: ‘Most people develop a life-debilitating heroin problem because they know that the arm of the law won’t seize them if they do.‘ which makes so little sense and is so far from reality that it hardly warrants a response. For the record the recent Science and Technology Committee inquiry was unable to find any evidence at all that the classification system was any kind of deterrence (in particular to problematic use of Class A drugs) and when challenged, the Government was unable to produce any resarch– not a single piece – to show any different.

    The final section of his piece reveals that he has relatives that have died from heroin overdoses – a tragedy that has apparently prevented him from viewing the issue with any sort of rational objectivity. He slams advocates of pragmatic responses as ‘cold and callous’ (worse still: sociology students) before concluding with ‘the best way to prevent people illegally taking heroin is to prosecute those who do.’ Well Patrick, we’ve been doing exactly that since 1971, during which time the prisons have filled up with heroin addicts (the UK has Europe’s highest prison population), heroin use has risen from around 15,000 problem users, to around 300,000 (we have the highest level of drug use in Europe) and heroin users are dying in large numbers (we have the highest level of drug deaths in Europe), not to mention committing over half of all UK property crime. More of the same? Maybe, just maybe we should think about trying something different.

    Now OK, perhaps I’m biased, but there was another opinion piece in the Sunday Times by Simon Jenkins, that argued the complete opposite to the West piece – it was titled ‘The really tough way to control drugs is to license them’. Ill leave you to decide for yourselves, but were I coming to this issue afresh and read both articles I suspect I would find the Jenkin’s take on this issue substantially more persuasive.

    This is a live debate and reformers are winning it hands down.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2017
  10. Sky Walker

    Sky Walker Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    663
    Messages:
    565
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2005
    from earth
    That is so sad and so stupid that it seems arguing with this man is a total loss, I would simply like to hurt his face in the most caring and practical way.