Wednesday, 11 March 2009


The UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs meets in Vienna to determine its next 10 year 'strategy'. I have used the opportunity to make one of my ritual attacks on the utter failure of the "war" on drugs - a "war" which has enriched criminals and led to the promotion of drugs use. I have called (again) for legalisation of most illegal drugs to destroy the profit incentive that drives forward their sale. They should be available through government regulated outlets while health warnings about their use are stepped up.

I assume I will get coverage in the north west regional press, and no doubt some Liberal Democrats will be upset with me for being "off message." But I feel strongly about this issue. Politicians should be leading the call for change, not leaving it to newspaper columnists.

Gradually the protests against existing policy are growing - 30 members of the House of Lords have raised their voices - but the majority of elected politicians stay mum. It is so easy for opponents to score points against those brave enough to declare that the emperor wears no clothes.

Former deputy drugs tsar, Mike Trace, writes in the Guardian that evidence of the failure of policy is overwhelming but that nothing will change. "We can all book our seats for 2019 to go through this charade again," he says.


Anonymous said...

I'm pretty much in accord Chris - the current drugs policy isn't remotely evidence based and that needs to change. We can't have a situation where policy is written by whichever red-top makes the shrillest noise, and it's about time political 'leaders' actually did some leading.

My own view is that if a drug can be taken by the majority people, most of the time, without causing significant harm to them or society then it's difficult to see why it should be illegal for adults. To my mind, those drugs which are highly addictive represent a threat to autonomy and rationality and so should fall into the category of being harmful enough to be banned.

Michael Abrahams said...

I'm all in favour of legalisation, grading, and taxation on cannabis, possibly even ecstacy and cocaine. But it is stupid to lump all drugs together.

I would suggest that 'date rape' drugs such as GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine remain illegal. And I can see little real benefit from legalising Heroin.

With a few carefully chosen drugs legalised demand for the remaining illegal drugs may be reduced and police can focus more efforts on eliminating them.

'Legalise drugs now' is not policy, it is not leading, it is just showing your ignorance of the harm drugs do, not just to the purchasers but to unwilling victims and to children.

Anonymous said...

Chris hasn't said that he wants all drugs legalised, just most.
The date rape drugs are a group that he would definitely not legalise (I have asked him the direct question).
More harm is caused to victims and children by the fact that a large proportion of the profits from drugs find their way into the hands of organised criminals.

Anonymous said...

Any legalisation model yet produced fails immediately on several evidence based points. Social & personal harm from drug rises with use and normalisation. Self evidently that is so, just look at the huge harm from the tobacco/alcohol model (and interestingly at the variance in harm where these substances are used less, often because of law or social/religious taboo). The suggestion that criminality can be taken out of drugs supply by any leaglisation model (short of governments supplying drugs free) is also agaist the evidence. More than 20% of the UK tobacco market is smuggled, counterfeit or both and it has been much higher. Illegal trade can ALWAYS undercut legal trade. Any legalisaton modl with restrictions (eg age related or charging tax) would also increase incentives for criminality. Indeed there s absolutely no reason whatsover to believe that criminality would be less than delighted with any legalisation model and as a matter of fact, product liability insurance for the illegal drugs is not going to be easily forthcoming. The call for legalisation is misplaced and not thought through, it is also intellectually unsound. Under the present regime most people do not take illegal drugs, yes it has downsides but it is the least worst option for individuals,paricularly young people and for society. The harm from drugs is not JUST to the individual as the familes of alcohol or heroin dependents will testify.

Anonymous said...

It would appear that The Economist agrees with Chris!

Anonymous said...

When will Governments learn that it is the 'black market' in illegal drugs that is the source of the problems. Take away or severely restrict this and many problems with the use of illegal drugs will be solved. Prohibition has never worked, and never will.