As a resident in the UK I will primarily discuss drug policy, current
and potential as it applies to the UK, I have drawn heavily on the
work of Transform,
an organisation who's mission statement is to:
... promote sustainable
health and wellbeing by bringing about a just, effective and humane system to
regulate and control drugs at local, national and international levels.
Raising the debate on the prohibition, legalisation
and regulation of all drugs including heroin, cocaine and cannabis.
Further information can be
found on their website - (http://www.tdpf.org.uk/)
I am a drug
and alcohol worker, volunteer substance
misuse counsellor and ex-offender.
I currently work to support individuals seeking to make changes in their
problematic drug or alcohol use.
Current State of Play
In the UK as in the
vast majority of the world, drug use is currently being managed by the prohibition
Prohibition aims to
eliminate the production, trafficking
and use of certain psychoactive
substances by using criminalisation
of the above actions as a deterrent.
Despite punitive measures and
harsh punishments for infractions, drug
use in the UK
has continued to rise.
Harmed by Prohibition?
Drug prohibition increases
crime on all levels, from the householder who is burgled, the individual that
is mugged, through the victims of associated crimes within the drug trade.
Gangs and associated violent gun and
knife crime have become more prevalent as turf
wars escalate over the lucrative drugs trade. At a higher level, organised
crime cashes in on the vast trafficking profits leading to corruption
amongst the law enforcement community and politicians.
Drug users and misusers:
Prohibition creates a
culture of harm maximisation for those using drugs; often the most vulnerable
in our society. Blood borne viruses such as HIV
are rife within the drug using community. Recently needle
exchanges and BBV education and testing campaigns have been implemented but
for many it is too late. Prostitution is strongly linked with Class A
drug use with an estimated 90-95% of female sex workers using; usually heroin
Citizens of Producer and
Drugs are big business,
countries such as Columbia
suffer social, economic and political instability due to the massive economic
pull caused by the demand for drugs in first world countries. Supply
will always follow demand and local, temporary successes in drug
interdiction will only raise street prices causing knock on acquisitive
crime in the end-user country and greater potential profits for the
Prohibition has the effect
of effectively criminalising huge sections of the population, individuals who
are often not involved in any other law breaking run the risk of receiving
criminal records and demotion to second
class citizens - ex-offenders. Ex-offenders often find it difficult to find
employment when compared to individuals with no criminal
record. This can lead to the cycle perpetuating itself with fewer and fewer
opportunities available with every subsequent conviction. Including lifetime
use 25% of adults and almost 50% of young people are or have been potential drug
The Tax Payer:
All this prohibition is
in particular it costs around £37000 to imprison one person for a year and
prison populations of around 77000 (in 2006) this swiftly adds up. In 2000 the
economic and social costs of class A drugs were estimated at between £11.1
billion and £17.4 billion.
regulated markets would allow government to take control of the market
which are currently under the control of criminals. This would lead to:
A dramatic drop in crime
including street and violent crime, acquisitive crime and prostitution.
A drop in the
prison population and associated costs by up to 50%.
health and more effective harm
reduction resulting from improved data
collection on drug use and better access to vulnerable people.
Removing the corrupting
influence of drug trafficking profits in countries around the world.
Safer, purer drugs on our
streets and in the hands of our most vulnerable citizens.
The option to tackle the
underlying causes of problematic drug use such as poverty, abuse and
Politicians, Non Government
Organisations and individuals are often unwilling to speak out, in part due to
the emotive and highly charged political environment drug policies exist in.
Associations have been made with terrorist organisations, immigration and
criminal behaviour linking the impression of being 'soft
on drugs' with a thousand vote and funding losing positions. Drug use has
been turned into a moral issue, those who take a toke or pop a pill are somehow
or at the very least weak.
We are fighting a war on
drugs, a crusade against the scourge afflicting the weak,
doomed and the hopeless. It is a war many of us do not wish to fight, but
are carried along and get caught in the crossfire. It is a war that ultimately
we cannot win yet cannot seem to withdraw from.
Perhaps it is time for the olive