This drug policy is criminal

Yet another member of the UK government’s drug committee board has resigned in disgust.. In his resignation letter, Eric Carlin says:

"We need to review our entire approach to drugs, dumping the idea that legally-sanctioned punishments for drug users should constitute a main part of the armoury in helping to solve our country’s drug problems. We need to stop harming people who need help and support… I am not prepared to continue to be part of a body which, as its main activity, works to facilitate the potential criminalisation of increasing numbers of young people."

I agree completely. It is evident that the current policy of criminalisation of drugs does not work.

  1. It does not restrict the supply in any meaningful way – cannabis, heroin, cocaine, etc. are readily available if you want to seek them out.
  2. The supply is unregulated, meaning that it will often be impure, mixed with unknown substances and of unknown strength, increasing the risk of overdose and other adverse effects.
  3. The supply is placed in the hands of criminal organisations whose business methods are, by definition, unregulated.
  4. Users are criminalised, creating a barrier to those who need help getting it, meaning that a bust as a young person can have drastic effects on future life opportunies.
  5. The policy has no credibility when relatively safe substances, such as cannabis and MDMA are illegalised, while more harmful ones, e.g. tobacco and alcohol, are not.

In fact, illegalisation of drugs has had much the same effect that prohibition of alcohol had in the US in the 20s and 30s. This is not to deny that the drugs in question can be harmful. People need to be educated on the potential risks of using them, and how to minimise the risk if they do choose to do so. It is not helpful when scares stories are published about a handful of deaths from an illegal (or soon-to-be illegal) substance, and when moral panic and proof-by-anecdote replace rational debate.

It needs to be accepted, though, that drugs’ like alcohol, are used for many reasons, and can be used as well as abused. David Nutt, the former head of the advisory committee, has advocated the legalisation and regulation of certain substances. I believe we need to go much further than this – we need to legalise and regulate all drugs.


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One Response to “This drug policy is criminal”

  1. mauvedeity Says:

    Fully agreed. The only point you miss is that actually doing something sensible about drugs would be total and utter political suicide. After all, some politician’s careers were killed by revelations that they’d used drugs briefly – that is to say, had some idea what all the fuss is about.

    I can’t see this changing any time soon… but it needs to.

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