The drugs debate

Lord Norton

In earlier posts, I raised the issue of drug use and whether or not we should consider its decriminalisation.  As a result of the many comments made by readers, I came to the conclusion that there was a case to establish a Royal Commission, or a committee of inquiry, to examine our drug laws.   I was reminded of this earlier today in talking to a colleague in the Lords,  who is an advocate of a change in the law.  He reported that the principal resistance he encounters to change is in the Home Office. 

As a result of our discussion, I decided it was appropriate to seek to pursue the matter in the House.  I am therefore planning to table a question for short debate (QSD) to ask the Government what consideration they have given to establishing a committee of inquiry.   Given the number of questions for short debate already on the Order Paper, it may be some time before time is found for the question, but as we are in for a long session it should be reached.  When it is, I may be seeking further comments and input from readers.

58 comments for “The drugs debate

  1. Gareth Howell
    14/10/2010 at 10:02 am

    the issue of drug use and whether or not we should consider its decriminalisation

    Yes why should street corner drug dealers not be allowed to trade in any murderous poisons they want to trade in, just like the NHS?

    As things stand most public houses have resident Cocaine traders lurking close by, who also have access to supplies of harder drugs for the sensible customer. Sensible?

    What’s new?

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      14/10/2010 at 2:06 pm

      Gareth Howell: Exactly the sort of issue a Royal Commission could examine.

  2. Tony Percy
    14/10/2010 at 11:43 am

    There is a strong argument for licensing and regulation of controlled substances from source to supply, rather than mere decriminalisation. As that will move effectively break the supply chain, and undermine the profit margin presently enjoyed by the criminal networks.

    It is a shame we missed the chance to explore this in 2006, in Afghanistan, but there still remains the possibility to develop this strategy as part of the peace building process there, and in other areas afflicted by nacro-terrorism.

    The question of funding for this type of venture can also be resolved. As I have already began the process securing the needed investment.

  3. Sam
    14/10/2010 at 11:54 am

    Gareth, I’m not sure what your point is there.

    Are you attacking the NHS, attacking drug dealers, or attacking existing drug policy?

    Personally I see no benefit in punishing drug users. Expensive, pointless mess that doesn’t target criminals. I do see it as rather a halfway house though, that benefits criminal dealers quite a lot by freeing their clients from punishment. I think a regulated legal supply would be a more sensible option.

    • 14/10/2010 at 7:22 pm

      Sam, I agree with your conclusion.
      —————-
      I think GH genuinely indicates a need to include foci on existing legislative and regulatory weaknesses; in this instance the governmentally-proposed (“)recommendation to decriminalise certain dangerous drugs(“) is highly questionable.

      GH illustrates the shadow-side fallaciousness of such decriminalisation; sketches the already licensiously-established marketplace practice of many “Pubs” having “resident drug-distributors” in nearby established premises, for the (‘)market-necessity(‘) of providing known and above-board “Sensible” customers with not just cocaine level drugs but much more dangerous hard drugs as well; GH is intimating that these flaws should be majorly on the Table already.
      ————
      “NHS being allowed to trade in murderous-poisons”:
      I myself have been iatrogenicly-injured by wrong Medical diagnosis (followed by my good-citizen-obedience to the ensuing wrong treatments) under the NHS, for many years.

      I also had a neighbour who was being kept on an addictive medication for almost four years continuously when the Pharmacopia clearly stated that drug should be prescribed for only four weeks at a time and the patient be ‘rested’ in between. One side effect was “Parkinson-like symptoms”; but the GP mistook this and had begun unawarely diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease.
      That neighbour had to be helped to find a senior medical-expert to review the predicament, which after two months off all medications resulted in no sign of Parkinson’s symptoms nor of Parkinson’s disease.
      That predicament had been cleared up in this instance by the patient being taken ‘secretly’ by a friend to a second GP, which at that time was allowed under the NHS but would not be allowed now in 2010).
      ————
      (((Alas! as Lord Norton has previously said in a reply to one of my other similar postings, “No names no pack-drill”))).
      ————
      Summarised: GH has presented a coolly rational but ‘anecdotal’ kind of snapshot-sketch of legislative and regulatory weaknesses in Drugs Issues.
      xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
      1922Th14Oct10

    • Gareth Howell
      15/10/2010 at 9:48 am

      Are you attacking the NHS, attacking drug dealers, or attacking existing drug policy?

      Sam hopefully all three; but the effective control of the criminal trades by cocaine traders/drug dealers, must take some beating.

      An attempt locally to set themselves up as
      administrators of punishment for crimes against criminals, as in the descriptions of the criminal trades of Charles Dickens in the 19thC, surely proves that little has changed, except the particular commodity the crime bosses trade in.

      My own opinion of “progress” in medicine is highly idiosyncratic.

      I can only say that to avoid ALL drugs, at ALL times, is a highly desirable and religious status to enjoy, not forgetting that the Microbe “yeast(wine,cider,beer)” was, as somebody has already mentioned , the very first to be used to induce drugged intoxication in primitive times, and is frequently brewed by monks today.

      Thinking back again to the 19th TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT, as I do, when I brew my own cider and wine at this time of year from apples, wine and pears, the dictate of Temperance was
      to avoid PUBLIC DRUNKENNESS. The gin palaces of 19thC London had a lot to answer for.

      I avoid publicly purchased alcohol if I can , and in so doing, avoid the drug dealers as well, although recently one man appointed himself my gardener, perceiving himself to be
      appointed cocaine trader as well, an easy touch?!

      He was mistaken, but was unable to understand that my own brew was any different from his much harder drugs imported from Spain (new stocks in for the Xmas season!)

      Methodism is my chosen creed, and a wise philosophy too. It is supririsng how many visitors get quite drunk on my Cider when in fact there is little more than apple juice in it. They think it is alcohol!

  4. Carl.H
    14/10/2010 at 11:56 am

    I look forward to the QSD regards making assisted suicide legal.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      14/10/2010 at 2:08 pm

      Carl.H: I don’t think a QSD is necessary, in that I anticipate Lord Joffe, or possibly another peer, will introduce again an Assisted Dying Bill. The value of the House of Lords is that it can fulfil an agenda setting role and I think Lord Joffe’s original Bill is an example of this.

  5. 14/10/2010 at 12:03 pm

    Drug taking, Prostitution, and certain other ‘open market’ activities needs to be both governancially (governmentally) and professionally-skilfully, regulated and run.

    There are three principal parties
    1 Government
    2 The Economics Marketplace(s)including the Drug-Makers, Dealers and Distributors
    3 The Users (including very secondarily their families/social-circles).

    At present none of these parties demonstrates sufficient skill for producing, distributing, and using Drugs.

    Mandatory training programmes are needed.
    ———–
    In prostitution, for instance, if it is to continue to be honoured with the title “sex industry trade” and furthermore “the oldest trade in the world” then it needs to be made compulsorily skilful; which in turn means it needs to be seen as a Human Development Matter (both Individual HD and Collective HD)and therein must be both psychologically and sociologically integrated, graded and regulated.
    ———————
    Use of potentially-dangerous (anything really) Drugs needs to be very similarly integrated, graded and regulated.

    zzzzzzzzzz
    1203Th14Oct10

    ————

    • McD
      14/10/2010 at 6:43 pm

      “There are three principal parties
      1 Government
      2 The Economics Marketplace(s)including the Drug-Makers, Dealers and Distributors
      3 The Users (including very secondarily their families/social-circles).

      At present none of these parties demonstrates sufficient skill for producing, distributing, and using Drugs.”

      What a silly thing to say, obviously, quite misguided or simply head buried too deeply in something; the skills required to produce distribute and use drugs are most certainly sufficient for two of the three ‘parties’ you mention. Have three guesses as to which one has some catching up to do.

      • 14/10/2010 at 7:57 pm

        McD at first appears to be groundlessly rebutting snd ridiculing JSDM’s submission
        (“What a silly thing to say …”).
        ———-
        However, he is hinting that both Drug-dealers and Drug-addicts do have plentifully enough established “skills”, in producing and using drugs, and therefore need no further skilling; leaving one to guess that his and the people-majority’s finding would be that, of the indicated three parties to this big Drug Issue, only Government needs to catch-up, by building sufficient skills within its rank-and-file.
        ———-
        Clarity and Charity thus now restored, the third principle “Self-Correction-preparedness” needs to be included too:

        JSDM intended the positive and progressive sense of the term “skill” to apply i.e. exclusively for Clean & Lawful expertises within the Rule of Law, and not to be applicable outside of that Rule of Law to mere Criminal “trickery”, “dodges” and “alternative avenues of achievement” and so on and so forth.
        ———–
        JSDM thinks he should have made it unambiguously clear that both Drug Dealers and Drug-Users need to be “rehabilitated” into respectively appropriate law-abiding “skills”, rather than being allowed to continue wielding “trickery, dodges or alternative-modes-of-genius” usurpingly in place of law-abiding Skills.
        ===========
        1957Th14Oct10

  6. Chris Long
    14/10/2010 at 12:49 pm

    Re: the issue of drug use and whether or not we should consider its decriminalisation.

    The only way to reduce associated harms caused by drug use is to take control. The government have totally failed, even though they seem to enjoy using the words “Controlled Substance”, they fail to even get a grasp on the reality of the situation.
    I have spoken to many police officers, Social and mental health workers, nurses and stewards of clubs. Many have stated the obvious, alcohol is much worse than all the drugs combined. And in doing so have also said that “Cannabis, Ecstacy, LSD and the like, are far less of an issue, especially when it comes to violence and time required to deal with the consequences”.

    The only way to reduce drug use is to reduce the taboo. Legalisation of drugs would reduce the deaths by contamination and mixing of substances through regulatory means and adequate information on how to/if you should so wish, to take this drug safely and to minimize associated harms.
    This is also the only way that you can reduce the funding of violent gangs, without something to sell, they have no means to purchase weapons and through community help as well as governmental/educational support, can be turned around to selling other legal options instead of enduring a life of crime.

    The tax money made from the sale of such substances legally would also reduce the uptake of newer, more dangerous legal highs. One of the reasons legal highs are so prevalent is because the original chemicals used to make those illegal highs, are now being bought up and converted to Legal highs through modification of molecular structure. This is not only dangerous as we have no research to highlight the possible damages, but it also gives the illusion that these are safe and tested rigorously….which is far from true.

    Criminal records and many other factors associated with drug use/dealing and the law, attaches permanent baggage for those unfortunate enough to have been caught out. This is wholly unfair as this removes future opportunities of travel and work, even if this was a one off mistake on the part of the person who got caught.

    Prison should be reserved for real criminals who are a danger to society, mental health institues and community rehabilitation is much more suited to those with issues re-drug abuse or mental problems.

    Legalise, Educate, Tax and Regulate.

    Please change this messed up system, before it turns the UK into mexico. Prohibition was a proven failure in America’s war on alcohol and it has always proven to be a failure the world round.

    • Gav
      14/10/2010 at 11:27 pm

      I absolutely agree.

      It seems like most rational people agree that it would be much better to control and regulate such substances, especially when we know it works with alcohol for example (we don’t see criminal gangs making £billions each year in profits from alcohol sales do we!).

      Unfortunately however, there are a lot of people in society that have no experience with illegal drugs and genuinely believe the anti-drug propaganda that seems to prevail (mainly the so-called “Daily Mail readers”). The worst of these seem to be parents that are scared that their kids will be able to get drugs – what they don’t realise is that a dealer on the street is much more likely to provide their offspring with drugs (often cut with more dangerous substances) than a licensed retailer would if the law prohibited sale to under 18s.

      For the sake of winning more votes by being “tough” on “crime”, and wanting to look like they are doing something to solve problems associated with drugs, politicians tend to side with those that make the noise.

      The problem is that this is unlikely to change any time soon. When there are drug related problems such as gang violence, deaths as a result of contaminated drugs and people falling into a life of addiction, it seems that people insist that we should crack down “more” on drugs. It turns into a vicious circle.

      The vicious circle of prohibition will break one day, and it will be much more desirable for it to be sooner rather than later because the criminal gangs that run the industry are getting richer and more powerful by the day and the quicker we can destroy their main source of income, the better.

  7. Rick
    14/10/2010 at 1:05 pm

    The fact that certain drugs are illegal is ridiculous.
    There is a substantial and ever growing body of evidence that the most effective way to deal with drug related problems, such as crime and poor health, is legalisation and support.
    It is obvious to anyone who has researched this that so much money is being lost to ineffective and primitive systems of control. In these financially and socially hard times, the more mature debate should be allowed and unlike in the past: “people who’s job it is to know exactly what they are talking about” should not be sidelined, as with Professor Nutt, similar colleagues, and endless support and front line workers.

  8. GLAZZ
    14/10/2010 at 2:45 pm

    there’s two alternatives
    1. status quo with criminals running the market
    2. legal regulation
    a ‘drug free’ britain is simply not a realistic option

    (the volstead act was repealed at a time of austerity because it didn’t work and the american government needed tax revenue – sound familiar?)

  9. 14/10/2010 at 3:31 pm

    The Lib Dems called for a Royal Commission on Misuse of Drugs in 1994, and their most recent policy requires “a major audit of the extent and social and economic costs of the drugs problem in the UK and the effectiveness of policies to tackle it.” Unfortunately they have been completely silent on the issue since joining the Government and the Home Office has repeated the same tired mantras.

    Hopefully you can count on the LDs in the Lords and in Government to support the call for a Royal Commission. I would be happy to help drum up support if you would like it.

  10. djb13
    14/10/2010 at 4:04 pm

    Lord Norton, if individual bills came forward legalising or decriminalising possession, , manufacture, consumption and retail of marijuana, LSD, cocaine (and derivatives) and heroin with no Conservative party whip, how would you vote on each?

    • Adam
      14/10/2010 at 5:27 pm

      I don’t think this is a black-and-white issue. The word ‘regulation’ conveys this better than ‘legalisation’. There are a range of regulatory possibilities that can be chosen as appropriate for each drug. There is a world of difference between heroin prescription (and decriminalisation) and allowing Asda to sell it to one and all. Asking for a yes/no answer seems a bit meaningless.

  11. Jake
    14/10/2010 at 5:32 pm

    Lord Norton, firstly I commend you on a sensible approach to dealing with our current drug policy failings. I would, however, urge you to look further into the issue. Whilst decriminalisation has great potential to reduce both use and the harms associated with drugs(ref Portugal http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080), it is not a panacea. Unfortunately, as mentioned in previous comments, the politically unpopular ‘legalisation’ but with strict regulation is the closest we will ever be able to get to an ‘ideal situation’ regarding drugs.

    Drugs have been around and taken by humans since time began, it is only in the last 40years or so that we decided that taking some (caffeine, alcohol or tobacco etc.) is fine, whereas others (cannabis, Opium, cocaine etc.) was unacceptable – and the key point is that these distinctions were not made on evidence, but purely on (according to a governmental report; 2005-6 HC 1031), “historical and cultural precedents”.

    In a time of financial hardship and ‘fairness’ promoted by the current government, is it not hypocritical to lock people up, put them through the judicial system and continuously erode and remove their civil liberties, all at the tax-payers expense, purely because they choose to relax with a different intoxicant than those permitted (and do so sensibly 95% of the time)?!

    I advise reviewing http://www.tdpf.org.uk/blueprint%20download.htm – a well thought out and balanced approach to how we could regulate drugs safely. I look forward to having your question, and hopefully more evidence-based questions regarding all manner of policies, being raised and answered in the House.

  12. 15/10/2010 at 1:08 am

    I hope this debate comes to fruition and it is productive. Thank you Lord Norton.

    One thing that resonates with me is the decriminalisation of legal highs when the ban comes into play. It was said that the criminalisation of the young does not have public benefits. Although this is certainly true as employment and such are effected by a charge, it is a clear admittance that decriminalisation does have a wider public interest.

    On the back if this and also on decriminalisation, it is still a black mark to the UK’s name that the prosecution of medicinal cannabis users is still very much in effect. The UK is now one of the last countries to not show any degree of compassion. From a very personal side of this issue, I do not feel this is befitting of a fair society.

  13. Carl.H
    15/10/2010 at 4:09 pm

    With all due respect to the preceding commenters, legalisation or decriminalisation of drugs would only fuel organised crime not decrease it. I have stated reasons before.

    Those that quote alcohol and tobacco as being models should look at again, especially at the criminal trade involved. Christmas brings a wealth of illegal goods, spirits being the main one, often they are poor copies of dubious content but cheaper because tac is avoided. The same can be found with tobacco, the vast majority of people I know smoke imported, often illegaly, tobacco products.

    The cost`s involved in creating licensed products plus the inevitable taxation would create a goldmine for the existing suppliers with an increased base of customers.

    The crime that exists now by users unable to afford, through employment, their fix would not abate. The organised crime of supply would thrive especially if drugs could be sourced within the UK. The only crime that MAY diminish is user crime and in that we could see Police ignoring people that MAY need assistance.

    Although I agree with some comments as to why some such drugs are legal and others not I could never agree to decriminalisation in general.

    Fortunately the issue is at present beyond even the Lords scope, not that with debate and evidence they would uphold the wishes of those proposing decriminalisation.

    As in all warps of life lines have to be drawn, to some these will seem unfair but ultimately rules cannot be completely satifactory to everyone.

    Humans are a species that are easily addicted, we must be aware of that and the cost and rely on those in power to, at times, say “no” for our own benefit.

    I personally know people whose lives have been ruined by what some call soft drugs, yes I also know those whose lives are ruined by alcohol and tobacco, the Governments awareness schemes do not work due to human addiction. Therefore I can only propose that drugs to which the public have ease of access to be limited. The question may well remain which ones but that is entirely different to general decriminalisation.

    • Adam
      15/10/2010 at 7:22 pm

      Saying that “legalisation or decriminalisation of drugs would only fuel organised crime not decrease it” goes against all evidence and sense. By that logic, criminalising alcohol and tobacco, handing the entire business over to organised crime would decrease organised crime????

      You are right to suggest that a regulatory model could cut acquisitive crime by drug users, but then you seem to suggest that that would be a bad thing.

  14. Jake
    15/10/2010 at 7:57 pm

    Carl.H, with all due respect I fear you have fundamentally misunderstood the whole issue of the economics of drug prohibition.

    Yes, although it is true that there is an underground market in alcohol and tobacco, it is far smaller than you appreciate, and than the regulated market. If the costs involved in creating licensed products plus taxation were such an issue, please explain the exorbitant profits of the tobacco/alcohol companies – they spend around £800m a year on advertising alone! If there really was a problem with licensed products these levels of profit would not be able to be reached.

    Your argument also implies that maybe we should ban alcohol and tobacco as the benefit of having a majority of licensed, regulated and pure products (i.e. not cut with glass etc. to increase the weight of the product at min cost) is far outweighed by the smaller illegal market. It should be noted that black market in alcohol in this example is nothing compared to the real ‘organised crime’ associated with US prohibition in the 1920-30’s – how many Al Capone’s are running organisations and corrupting governments from illegal alcohol profits?! But how many are doing so from the other ‘illegal drugs’ – just look at Mexico.

    Whether you take drugs or not, no other commodity on this planet has such a mark-up in price – by the time a kilo of heroin has reached us from Afghanistan, it is worth 1000% more than at source – of course people will risk life and limb for this type of obscene profit.

    Carl, with your argument that organised crime would increase if we were the only country to legalise – you in fact paint a perfect picture for repeal of global drug prohibition via the UN, without the profit incentive, ‘illegal drugs’ would become just another commodity, traded and sold within regulated markets, not by violet, ruthless and government-corrupting individuals and gangs.

    You said that you know people who’s lives have been ruined due to drugs, well I know people who’s lives have been ruined by car crashes – maybe we should ban cars? Or maybe, we should take a pragmatic approach, realise there are risks and do the best we can to mitigate these risks, such as making a safer and regulated product, and then promote sensible use (this goes both for driving and drug taking). Stop advertising for drugs, take the glamour out of them and promote sensible education as opposed to anecdotal horror stories. It worked for tobacco, and we didn’t even have to arrest anyone…

    If decriminalisation is the first step to show that the sky doesn’t fall in when people are allowed to take different drugs, so be it, but the ultimate goal will always be regulated legalisation, and it will happen as the current policy is completely unsustainable.

    • Carl.H
      16/10/2010 at 1:03 pm

      “It is true that there is an underground market in alcohol and tobacco, it is far smaller than you appreciate”.

      Jake, I am at street level, living a working class life the market in illegal tobacco and alcohol I can assure you is far greater than you imagine. The mere fact that smugglers are so good at what they do often means statistics concerning this do not relate to the truth. I admit this at present is more on tobacco related products simply because alcohol is far too cheap.

      I did not imply a ban on alcohol or tobacco, though as a heavy smoker I should like the Government to implement one and always have. Smoking once more has been become popular with our young mostly due to it`s association with other drugs. What I did state was that Government as a protector of society should limit which drugs were available.

      “By the time a kilo of heroin has reached us from Afghanistan, it is worth 1000% more than at source.”

      So you propose that this potentially lethal drug be available easily and cheaply ? Regards profits, you know as well as I that market forces drive profit and legalised dealers in commodities are no different regard profit than organised crime, infact some would say they are one and the same.

      The one thing about at present legalised drugs such as tobacco and alcohol that is preached of time and again is the cost to the NHS and us all. I am of the firm belief that the effects of the drugs that you would wish to decriminalise would place such a burden on State and Tax payer in terms of mental health and other health reasons that the savings made in Policing would not cover.

      You talk of mitigating risks, promoting sensible, use I am an addict(tobacco), I know the data, I know the risks, I know my health suffers, still I smoke at a horrendous rate. I am an addict, there is no control. There is no glamour as such in drug taking even the kids know it but the high that allows an escape from tedium is worth it.

      As for it`s worked for tobacco, I think you`ll find it hasn`t, not judging by my frequent communication with our young. Yes some intelligent kids don`t smoke but they do replace it with alcohol. Smoking is part of the “Gansta” world along with “weed”, “meow meow” and other easily accessible drugs, at working class level these things are prevelent. You may not see them but you will feel their effects eventually.

      I don`t suppose we are going to agree on this subject possibly because we are at different levels of society but I can assure you that general decriminalisation will benefit organised, if you want to call it that, crime. It will burden the NHS, the Taxpayer and Government. It will not lead to safe, regulated drug use as you seem to feel the regulation of tobacco and alcohol has.

      By all means let us discuss classification of some drugs, such as extasy, marijuana etc., but a general decriminalisation is suicide, in some cases literally.

      As a society, a caring society there are some things we say “no” to, as we do as parents. If we stop caring, if we say suit yourself, kill yourself if you want, drive yourself to the depths of depression of mental health problems, we are no longer a society. It may well be that you disagree these things occur with certain drugs to certain people then this is what I say is open to discussion but not a blanket decriminalisation.

      If we look to those in positions of authority with access to drugs even there we find abuse and mental health problems.

      http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0843/is_5_30/ai_n6213542/

      • Jake
        16/10/2010 at 4:22 pm

        Carl, I would hate to say that your personal perspective has skewed your view of the overall picture, but unfortunately I think on some levels this may be the case.

        For example, smoking may fluctuate in some areas, but see the general trend has been a decrease (http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/cancerstats/types/lung/smoking/). This has only been achieved by, and this is important, restricting its use in certain areas and through education of the risks – not banning it. Taxation should be at a level to reduce use without increasing the black market too, I agree that alcohol tax is too low and support minimum unit pricing. A balance has to be found.

        Also, what do you think happens when you ban a product that is in demand, as you said you would like to happen with tobacco… does it just magically disappear, problem solved? No! Cannabis, Ecstasy, Cocaine are widely available in this country, I can still even get Mephedrone if I wanted after its recent ban. Over the last 40 years, ruthless competition has driven down the price and increased the purity, without making even the slightest dent in availability!! Sure, after some large raids supply may be affected for a couple of months, but look at the big picture – use, availability and prevalence in all our towns and cities has generally gone up!

        In addition, when you ban a product that should be regulated/licensed you allow profit-driven criminals to create the product, and yes this is different to legalised dealers – for example, if Carling produced a batch of beer that had high quantities of methanol in it (which is highly toxic to humans) and hundreds of people got ill or worse, died – imagine the outrage, the lawsuits and potential criminal suits against the manufacturer!! Now compare this to recent cases of anthrax inadvertently getting mixed in with Afghan Heroin (spores from animal hides)… the governments answer was to just ‘abstain’! How inconsiderate and inhumane is that – imagine if smoking were ‘banned’ and you got ill from a dodgy batch of your fix, only to be told that there is nothing that can be done as it was illegal in the first place and you shouldn’t have been doing it!

        With your concerns regarding the NHS, please contrast this to the fiscal cost of the current prohibition policy – a recent Parliamentary Committee of Public Account (PAC) found “The Government spends £1.2 billion a year on measures aimed at tackling problem drug use, yet does not know what overall effect this spending is having”, this is in addition to the £13.9bn in costs associated with acquisitive crimes committed by addicts, plus, add in the costs of police time, the extra equipment they need, and the cost of putting someone through the judicial system. That doesn’t even take into account the tax revenue that could be raised if the drugs were licensed and regulated (with the money generated going towards prevention and support). So yes, make Diamorphine (Heroin) available more cheaply and easier for addicts via the NHS! It would cut out the criminals, eliminate acquisitive crime and reduce the cost of dealing with the unintended consequences of illegal IV use of Heroin such as Hep C or HIV!! A net financial gain.

        You have mentioned mental health a couple of times, but the problem with our society is that it is far easier to blame people for their problems than compassionately help them. Doctors regularly prescribe anti-depressants instead of just talking to their patients or referring them to a councillor. These people self-medicate with drugs, often alcohol and tobacco.. but should they be unfortunate enough to try another substance, they are no longer a patient and now a criminal! Compassion is lacking in our society regarding mental health, and the current prohibition status only exasperates this by segregating some but not others.

        Overall, I agree that decriminalisation is not the right approach long-term as it doesn’t address the core issue. But it has huge potential to greatly reduce the harms to those taking drugs. As a ‘caring society’ surely that is what we want?!

        Fundamentally, you have to ask why does the government have a right to decide what I can and can not put in my body absent harm to others? If you get in a drunken fight that is your responsibility and you will pay the consequences regardless of your right to drink alcohol or not. So why not other drugs too?

        Finally, as a ‘caring society’ we should want to reduce the harms of drug use not criminalise our young under-privileged people. I know kids who are 16 and find it easier to get Cannabis than alcohol as you have to show an ID to get alcohol. Now I am not a parent but I damn sure know that if my future kids wanted to try smoking Cannabis, in light of rational and informative education/evidence of its risks, I would feel far more reassured that they were smoking a regulated and licensed product than one sprayed with carcinogenic glass to increase its weight as happens under an unregulated regime… if you prefer the latter on whatever grounds, who is to the more caring of us…?

        • Carl.H
          16/10/2010 at 9:09 pm

          “We know that more young people in Camden are smoking than the national average, and there is a rapid increase in smoking rates in young people between the ages of 12 and 15 years old for both Camden and England as a whole¹”

          http://www.smokefreecamden.nhs.uk/smoking-and-young-people

          “There is evidence that actual smoking rates among 15-year olds may be higher than reported, based on measurements of cotinine in saliva, with 21% of 15-year old boys and 19% of 15-year old girls having cotinine levels indicative of active smoking.”

          http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/cancerstats/types/lung/smoking/#age

          You can see from the info that statistically there appears a levelling out, add into that more people are prone to lie due to stigma and other reasons, also the fact a lot are being supplied illegally.

          We can talk on almost any crminal activity and conclude nomatter the law it will happen, gun crime for instance but we do not say decriminalise guns. It`s sheer stupidity.

          Regards a net financial gain I think you are wrong but neither of can have exact figures.

          These drugs kill either directly or indirectly, admitted not every time but you know they would. In our society at present, which has become like the USA one of litigation where hospitals, councils and the like are being put through the courts do you believe that a Government would not be held to account for a legalised drug death ? As a parent and a voter I will do everything in my power to resist such a move toward decriminalisation.

          “I would feel far more reassured that they were smoking a regulated and licensed product”

          I`d make sure mine didn`t do it at all.

          “Fundamentally, you have to ask why does the government have a right to decide what I can and can not put in my body absent harm to others?”

          But it isn`t harmless to others is it ? It will affect the wealth of the Nation, it will affect those that are attacked by someone high on substances, please do not deny the reality of that it is fact. We`re not just talking cannabis or extasy so we have to take into account drugs, hallucinogenic and other that cause real destruction. Even those that you may say are harmless are not as they DO cause personality problems amongst many.

          “But it has huge potential to greatly reduce the harms to those taking drugs.”

          But by decriminalisation you will increase the numbers and the availability without getting rid of the criminal element. Addicts who have gotten more by legal means will need more for the high, so they`ll commit offences. Dealers will still be dealing at 3 a.m. possibly cheaper than the local drug store who get robbed 5 times a week, it will still be cut with harmful substances so it IS cheaper. And will your Government dealer accept sex in return for a hit from a desperate addict ?

          You cannot deny that no matter the substance people will become addicted, we can see this clearly with alcohol and the denial by great swathes of the population to their addiction.

          List of drugs and their effects
          http://www.drugabuse.gov/DrugPages/DrugsofAbuse.html

          Psychoactive substance use poses a significant threat to the health, social and economic fabric of families, communities and nations.
          World Health Organisation

          http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/facts/global_burden/en/index.html

  15. 16/10/2010 at 10:28 pm

    Resistance to change in the Home Office?

    No?!

    Not conceivable….

    Surely….

  16. Carl.H
    16/10/2010 at 11:26 pm

    I posted a reply with links to Jake, it appears to have disappeared but was awaiting moderation. Can someone please check the spam folder.

    Thank you

  17. 16/10/2010 at 11:35 pm

    The above conversation is an interesting one and one in which we find ourselves going around quite a bit in this debate.

    Carl H, you make a good case but I disagree with you also. You say that you are on street level and say you are working class, and yet you seem to be insinuating that you wish for more of the same and continue prohibition. You certainly don’t seem to be in favour of decriminalisation. May I ask, from your perspective, how would you like to see things progress with drug law? (non leading question I assure you).

    The reason I ask is that is is confusing to me that you are of working class, as I’m sure many of us are, and yet you don’t support decriminalisation or regulation. It is the working class and poorer areas of society that are suffering most due to current law. Even if you are not involved in drugs directly, the current method will and is effecting us all. Whether it is higher crime rates and insurance premiums, or the fall out of drug related crime, it is the working class that are suffering most in this drug war.

    With every minor drug charge on a teenager’s record, the chances of shaking that stigma and criminal charge in later life are slim to none; this means that one minor drug charge will halt chances of employment. In turn this means a life of crime is not only preferable due to the high profits in illicit drugs, but a life of crime is almost necessity just to survive. This has become a tragic and avoidable vicious circle. The knock on effects to wider society are exponential and this has been acknowledge by the government in the legal high ban, it is simply not prudent to criminalise society any longer. The antipode of this is the richer end of the spectrum where the chances of getting caught are slimmer due to simple demographics, the drug war has never really focused on the high end users.

    Once upon a time I too thought prohibition was sensible, it makes sense on the face of it, but as pointed out above, what right is it for anyone to dictate which substance is allowed, and which is prohibited to an individual’s body. Especially given that the Misuse of Drugs Act is not based on scientific data and drawn up on political and moral opinion alone. This once more is not befitting of a rational society and is it any wonder we are in mess?

    The Lancet Harm Scale should have some standing in the MDA shouldn’t it? In fact, drug law seems to have gone the complete opposite to the health position of this issue;

    http://howoriginal.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/drug-harm-lancet.jpg?w=300&h=267

    And one final point, (excuse the long reply) the thinking of “drugs are bad, make them illicit” has long retired in this debate. Although you, Carl H, have not pertained to this ethic and have made far better points, it does seem to be the only position of opinion from staunch prohibitionists. “We need to send a message” you often hear. The law is not sending that message it is clear to see.

    If drugs are bad and harmful, this is even more reason to protect society and put them in a place of regulation and control and not leave them feral as the currently are, anything else is an oxymoron and tragically illogical.

    • Carl.H
      17/10/2010 at 5:27 pm

      I`ll take the last point first, if I may.

      Regulation and control as opposed to feral.

      Law can only do certain things mainly to make one thing or activity legal or illegal. Unless you are proscribing some form of prescription or rationing on a basis of ?? A mental competence test ? A physical test ? Or some such, I don`t know how one could CONTROL without actually making something illegal.

      Addicts are idiots, I am one, we kid ourselves, lie and deny facts I see much of it in the world of alcohol and having just had a friend of 43 die due to it I`m aware of the dangers of self delusion.

      I will not rule out control but the dangers involved must be taken into account. A small amount of weed may not affect you but someone else it may tip over the edge. I have seen many cases of paranoia and psychosis due to drugs considered very mild.

      So it becomes a question of how do the Government protect society as a whole and this is where the quagmire is. By protecting society as a whole it has to take away individual freedoms. You question the right of law to say what you can or cannot do with your body but do not seem to understand the knock on effects for family, friends and society. Why should you have to wear a hard hat on a building site, it`s your head ? Why wear a seatbelt ? Et al.

  18. Brian
    17/10/2010 at 4:24 am

    One of the things that has been missed here is the fact that both alcohol and tobacco should be under the missuse of drugs act! Here’s a slice from the act-(2) It shall be the duty of the Advisory Council to keep under review the situation in the United Kingdom with respect to drugs which are being or appear to them likely to be misused and of which the misuse is having or appears to them capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem.

    Both alcohol and tobacco cause social problems one by killing the user and well walk down any main street in the country on a friday and saturday night to see the other! The government response to the abitrary exclusion of alcohol and tobacco is “historical and cultural precedence” this is an error in law and leads to the missuse of drugs act being maladministered no where in the act does it state a drug can be exempted for these reasons!
    What the problem is I think is that government do not understand the missuse of drugs act. You see they think it’s a mandate for prohibition therefore to bring alcohol and tobacco under the provisions of the act would in fact mean prohibition, this is not the case the act can make provisions for the regulation and supply of any drug, with the exeption of opium (sct 9 M.D.A) in fact one could go on to say that the only drug prohibited strictly under the act is opium it even has its own section. We also need to get away from this artificial divide suggesting that some drugs are legal and others are illegal this is another error in law a drug is either controlled under the act or it is not, a drug can not be illegal (I mean has anyone seen a bag of heroin plead guilty or not guilty in a court of law?) The maladministration of the missuse of drugs act has resulted in drugs being uncontrolled, and has resulted in human beings, being controlled!
    This was certainly not the intention of the act it was set up to regulate and controll the supply of drugs which caused social problems not the complete prohibition of certain drugs vs the supply of the dangerous drugs alcohol and tobacco!

  19. Jake
    17/10/2010 at 5:29 pm

    Brian and Jason, glad I’m not the only one with these views! Brian, I would say that the government fully understands the Misuse of Drugs Act lol, which is why they are so staunchly opposed to including alcohol and tobacco, as to ban some and not others would show the hypocrisy of how it is being administered!! I believe that this position of arbitrary exclusion may very soon come up for judicial review, which is a very very good thing!

    Carl, to address a couple of your points… Referencing guns to drug taking completely misunderstands the issue – if I have a gun, I am far more likely to terrorise others around me and use it against someone by the very nature of having one. The only use a gun has is to propel hot metal at velocities sufficient to inflict considerable damage, so yes I agree that they should be very tightly regulated. On the other hand, taking drugs (other than alcohol) generally doesn’t predicate detriment to society in of itself – how many Cannabis smokers start fights because you spilled their drink… it may be true that drug addicts cause detriment to society to fund their habit, but that is a failing of the current policy, not the drugs themselves. And those that may cause harm to society are already taking ‘illegal drugs’ that they shouldn’t be able to get hold of because they are ‘banned’ and causing harm, spurred on by lack of chances as Jason mentioned due to their criminal record, so to compare guns to drug taking is sheer stupidity.

    “Drugs kill”… yes, if misused and not helped by poor quality drugs created by unregulated regimes. But so do cars, horse riding or eating too much fast food – the problem is balance, and without regulation it is hard to get realistic education grounded in fact and evidence out to the people who need it most and are most likely to abuse any drug. When you say “do you believe that a Government would not be held to account for a legalised drug death”, of course not!! Do you sue the government if you have a car crash? Do you sue the government if you become diabetic due to overeating fast food? NO!! Remember the government isn’t there to tell you how you should live in every aspect of your life but to see risk and act in our best interest to reduce those risks – something the current policy seems to completely reject and in fact promote more harm to members of our society.

    “I`d make sure mine didn`t do it at all.” I’m sorry to say, but that is just plain naive.. with that attitude you want your kids to refrain from all drug use? So alcohol and tobacco are out of the question? What about caffeine, which is addictive and causes health problems…? Kids come into contact with drugs, no matter how good a parent you are, and they very well may try them – I reiterate, your stance says that if, just if, they try drugs, they will be trying the worst possible version (safety-wise) that this government can control for. Why are you so opposed to your kids to have safer, cleaner drugs should they actually try take them?!

    Drugs don’t cause personality problems, they can exasperate existing ones. Legal regulation would not affect the wealth of the nation as you say – and you talk about being attacked by someone ‘high on substances’, well I myself have been attacked on more than one occasion by someone who is drunk (or ‘high’ as you define it) for no reason, but I don’t think that alcohol should be banned. In fact, go to a club where ecstasy use is prevalent and see for yourself the difference in attitude compared to violent drunks. Please also see the scale of harms that Jason posted to see how bad ‘hallucinogens’ really are. Please question where your information came from on drugs you have not tried, as often, scare stories, political pandering and ‘moral’ stances dominate whereas the truth is far from what is promoted.

    Finally, again, I don’t think that decriminalisation is the answer, but in terms of mitigating harms to users and society in general it is a more pragmatic and humane approach than prohibition. Please also read what happened in Portugal when they decriminalised drugs and see if the sky fell in over there – http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080 .

    Certain people will always become addicted to substances, and levels of addiction internationally have remained pretty constant before and after prohibition, so without magically getting rid of drugs there is no way to stop this, but merely educate and help those that do, not criminalise them! Your arguments are either the complete ban of all drugs known to man as each carries its own risks, or a very good case for legalisation and regulation, and if the WHO says “Psychoactive substance use poses a significant threat to the health, social and economic fabric of families, communities and nations.” why are they not pressing to ban alcohol and tobacco but rather suggest safe intake levels and methods of use – because they realise that the damage and unintended consequences caused by banning substances actually causes more of a threat to the health, social and economic fabric of societies than the drugs themselves but have to toe the international political line or have their funding cut…

    • Carl.H
      17/10/2010 at 6:13 pm

      “The only use a gun has is to propel hot metal at velocities sufficient to inflict considerable damage, so yes I agree that they should be very tightly regulated.”

      So if I could show that drugs could cause similar damage you would call for those to be tightly regulated too ?

      “Drugs don’t cause personality problems”

      Did you read through the list of drugs and effects ? I think you`ll find evidence to contradict your statement.

      “Please also read what happened in Portugal when they decriminalised drugs and see if the sky fell in over there – ”

      Please tell the whole story, in Portugal users caught are put in treatment schemes or fined and dealers are still dealt with by the law the same as previously.

      “Under the Portuguese plan, penalties for people caught dealing and trafficking drugs are unchanged; dealers are still jailed and subjected to fines depending on the crime. But people caught using or possessing small amounts—defined as the amount needed for 10 days of personal use—are brought before what’s known as a “Dissuasion Commission,” an administrative body created by the 2001 law.”

      So people caught are still being dealt with by law, just in a different manner.

      • Jake
        17/10/2010 at 8:08 pm

        Carl, it is precisely that drugs can cause harm that I am asking for tighter regulation, please realise that banning/prohibition isn’t regulation as the drugs are still there but criminals control them not doctors or qualified distributors!!

        With regards to personality problems, yes drugs can produce an altered state for the duration a drug is in someone’s system and yes sustained, long term over-use can damage a brain producing noticeable changes/problems, but it is the inherent personality problems in the first place that will have led the user to that position – that is why some people can remain recreational users and some become addicts etc. and once again, prohibition turns those most susceptible from potential patients into criminals where they get no help in prison.

        Portugal is bound, as are we, to the UN single convention on narcotic drugs, which arbitrarily criminalises some drugs and not others (read up on why some drugs were criminalised in the first place it may surprise you). That means that they have to so something within the law to comply to the UN, but the convention also allows for non-punitive measures, such as decriminalisation. Since decriminalisation in 2001, general rates of use of nearly all drugs has decreased (in the face of a rising Heroin epidemic they now have lower per-capita use rates than us, and not only for Heroin but others such as Cannabis), the harms associated with drug use has decreased, overdose deaths have decreased, rates of blood borne diseases such as Hep C and HIV have decreased and people wishing to seek help for their drug problems no longer feel like they will be victimised by the law and thus the numbers entering treatment have increased! The dissuasion commission can offer treatment and you can reject it if you so chose, but you don’t go to jail and you don’t get a criminal record.

        As I said, decriminalisation is not the best approach long-term but its flaws are far outweighed by the benefits. Please have a quick look at http://www.viennadeclaration.com/about-the-declaration.html to see what those far more qualified than us, who work on the front lines of the ‘drug problem’, think of our current policies…

        Let me ask you one last thing – by prohibiting certain drugs (as you are for), what would your ideal situation be regarding drugs and their use be?

  20. Carl.H
    18/10/2010 at 10:53 am

    “Portugal’s drug-mortality rate, among Europe’s lowest, has risen. Mr. Goulão says this is due in part to improved methods of collecting statistics, but the number of drug-related fatalities can also be traced to mortality among those who became addicted to heroin during the country’s 1980s and 1990s epidemic.

    Violent crime, too, has risen since the law’s passage. According to a 2009 report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Portugal’s drug-use and murder rates rose in the years after decriminalization. The general rise in drug use was in keeping with European trends, but the U.N. noted with some alarm that cocaine use doubled and cocaine seizures jumped sevenfold from 2001 to 2006.

    Murders rose 40% in the period. The report tentatively links that with drug trafficking, but points out overall murder rates in Portugal remain low.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303411604575168231982388308.html

    • Jake
      18/10/2010 at 11:52 am

      Carl, I like how you missed out the next paragraph in your quote “Pedro do Carmo, deputy national director of Portugal’s judiciary police, says he doesn’t see link the rise in violent crime with decriminalization. Instead, he praises the program for reducing the fear and stigma attached with drug use. “Now, when we pick up an addict, we’re not picking up a criminal,” he says. “They are more like victims.” The article also confirms what I said about reduced harm to the users. Remember too, that use of a drug does not constitute abuse.

      In addition, the UNODC and its UN cohorts are bodies that relies on drugs to be ‘illegal’ for their existence, so of course they are biased and always somehow find ‘statistics’ that comply with their policy line. It should be noted too that any research that comes out in favour against prohibition, they suppress it, don’t investigate it themselves and continuously fail to review the efficacy of their own policy!! http://www.tdpf.org.uk/WHO-UNICRI%20cocaine%20study.pdf see the summary of findings on page 6 of this suppressed report which was the biggest study ever into global cocaine use as an example. The UNODC director himself has said that the current system is “not fit for purpose” and has many “unintended consequences” http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com/2008/03/unodc-director-declares-international.html . UNODC also recognise that 95% of drug users are non-problematic yet promote a policy that instead of helping the 5% of problematic users, criminalises everyone regardless of their usage type. I wouldn’t believe anything that comes from that body.

      You also didn’t answer my question on what your ideal situation regarding drugs would be?

  21. Carl.H
    18/10/2010 at 4:39 pm

    I feel we`ve come a very long way in this debate and I fully realise that the present isn`t satisfactory. I can understand proponents of decrmininalisation of less harmful drugs stance, not to say I agree though but I can see that some drugs maybe on par with alcohol and tobacco.

    How do these proponents feel if each Police Force set it`s own grey area where they might tolerate a certain amount of personal use substances ? It would still be illegal but upto Police Officers to decide to bring a charge or not ?

    • Jake
      18/10/2010 at 8:06 pm

      LOL Carl after all that you basically just suggested decriminalisation for some drugs! If a police officer doesn’t arrest you it means they don’t view your e.g. possession of a controlled drug as an infraction of the law, thus not a criminal offence, thus decriminalisation. Grey areas are not the way to go unfortunately and would put too much discretion on an officer (read potential for abuse or discrimination).

      But I am glad to see that you realise that what we have isn’t working and are at least amenable to different solutions… If we looked at the evidence for what does and doesn’t work, and took drug use as a health problem rather than a criminal justice problem our society would be a whole lot better off!

      • Carl.H
        19/10/2010 at 2:37 pm

        Jake I apologise, my last concerning grey areas and Officers discretion was a loaded question, one with which I have an agenda.

        This is exactly how prostitution & brothels are Policed at this current time, a situation I am unhappy with and I feel everyone else should be too. As you rightly say it is open to abuse and discrimination which does happen.

  22. 18/10/2010 at 8:00 pm

    Well, from the response so far, Lord N, it appears you have no need to wait until your question comes up for input from readers!

    I am very much of the opinion that a similar inquiry is needed to look at prostitution. I see no hope of the Home Office initiating much needed radical revision, despite developments elsewhere radidly leaving the UK isolated among the major English-speaking Commonwealth countries.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      19/10/2010 at 12:55 pm

      Stephen Paterson: I agree. The responses so far have given me a great deal of valuable material. I have benefited from reading the contributions and, indeed, the exchanges. I would also favour a similar inquiry into prostitution.

  23. 19/10/2010 at 1:43 am

    Thank you Carl H for the reply.

    It’s certainly heartening to have a good productive debate on here, it has been a breath of fresh air.

    In answer to your reply, for me, there is only one conceivable answer to the debate.

    I can only speak of cannabis as it is the only substance I use (I don’t even ingest caffeine) and will field on what I have learned from my research patterns of this particular substance:

    Under the current approach, it is tragically predictable that we have detrimental effects of cannabis; especially on the young. We know that the developing mind should not take cannabis, it is certainly an adult activity. Under prohibition, we have excessive and prevalent use amongst youngsters. They can obtain quickly, readily and at pocket money prices. We have no quality control of product, no guidelines or advice on potency and dosage, and a very dangerous industry that is thriving and funding all manner of undesirable activities. The Wootton Report from 1968, commissioned by the government of the day, hinted this would be the result. (the report concluded that cannabis should receive no punishment via law due to its comparatively safe properties). Suffice to say, the report was binned as it did not produce the correct answer:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wootton_Report

    If regulation were to come into play, we would have age checks. (the BBC reported that the tobacco raised age limit lowered teenage use by 7%)

    We would have product control ensuring that, “skunk” or “street weed” as it is known by those in the know, is wiped out and the real product of comparatively safe cannabis would be to hand. Not to mention the correct dosage and potency would be addressed giving the user all knowledge of how to actually use this substance properly. The harms that are attached to cannabis come from ignorance, misuse and abuse. To know cannabis is to keep it safe.

    I use the pint of vodka analogy: if you were to order “alcohol” a generic term for the substance and you were given a pint of fluid – not knowing if it was a pint of beer, whiskey or vodka – and you downed that pint of “alcohol” in one, it is fair to say consequences will not be affable if you were downing a hard liquor. You need to know what drink you are ingesting, and this, in essence, is what is going on with cannabis, and I would wager other substances too. Education is key in this issue, real education too, not another “just say no” campaign.

    As a medical user, I need to know the following before ingesting:

    What strain is it; there are thousands.
    What THC to CBD does it possess.
    How was it harvested.

    If you do not know these things that you cannot make an informed decision to ingest. You simply will not have these basic emplacements under the current method of “control”. This is the infuriating point for me, I hold cannabis in high regard and have studied the plant for many years, for a teenager to come along and suffer consequence due to misuse hinders my plight directly and it is for me, the responsible user, to receive punishment.

    This is where my issue lays, if we are to outlaw substances based on social harm, we would once more have a vastly differing outlook in society, and the Misuse of Drugs Act. Who’s moral and political opinion is right over another’s? This is where the “message” is muddying and creating so much damage.

    I used to hold personal stigma against MDMA for example, if the state was to control this, you could make it practically 100% safe. So once more, is this a balanced society to not to at least take this into consideration? At what point do we acknowledge that “the message” has not been heard and actually address harm reduction. I feel the law is taking the place of good parenting and failing on all counts.

    In answer to your recent question Carl H of leaving it to police discretion, I once more don’t feel this is good enough in preventing harm. I do not wish to come across as wanting only one solution to this problem and pushing blindly for that result, but I truly do not see how we can reach the end result we all wish for; a healthier, safer society with less drugs and less related crime. Only through some degree of regulation do I feel we can achieve this. If we were to leave to police discretion, I do not know how we could go about harm reduction through education and product control all the while stemming the unstoppable tide of street rule that has now gripped and crippled community.

    Excuse my long post once more, and thank you all for the interesting discussion.

    • Jake
      19/10/2010 at 5:00 pm

      Jason, it is worth noting that the Americans came to a similar conclusion regarding Cannabis in 1972 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shafer_Commission) but they were also drafting their ‘controlled substances act’ and the Shafer Commission produced the ‘wrong’ result – just take a look at what Nixon said too, its disgusting http://www.csdp.org/news/news/nixon.htm. But it also reminds me of the recent Mephedrone sham – the report was written, and its conclusions announced before it had actually been finished, and before the deaths supposedly attributed to it could be proven to be from other causes. The Dutch commission in the 70’s was listened to and compared to the USA, their rate of usage of Cannabis is about half of the Americans.. which worked better…

      The home office should act in UK citizens interests and base policy on evidence, but instead seems another wing from which to spout political rhetoric, so Lord Norton, no wonder they are the principle resistance. They have never performed an impact assessment or cost-benefit analysis of the current policy even though “unintended consequences” have been identified, and considering just how much the policy costs us both in £££’s and liberty, I feel that it is criminal… see http://www.tdpf.org.uk/CBA%20New%202010.pdf for further info.

      Lord Norton, I would also like to take the time to say thank you for listening and reading these (sometimes long) posts, as often in current politics, the voice of the little man feels like it is not heard.

      • Lord Norton
        Lord Norton
        20/10/2010 at 6:20 pm

        Jake: Thanks for that. The contributions are exceptionally helpful.

  24. Adam
    19/10/2010 at 11:16 pm

    It’s also worth noting that 2011 will be the 40th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act and the 50th of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Perfect timing to launch a Royal Commission?

    That we are now cutting all kinds of public spending only adds to the importance of investigating the effectiveness of prohibition given that current evidence suggests it is not just useless but counterproductive and that regulation would save billions. (http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com/2010/10/on-eve-comprehensive-spending-review-it.html)

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      20/10/2010 at 6:19 pm

      Adam: Thanks. Two very helpful and timely observations.

  25. Brian
    20/10/2010 at 12:41 am

    Jake, prior to prohibition of Heroin in the 20s there were less than 1000 addicts in the uk the figures haven’t remained the same, there are now 55800 addicts in Scotland alone. The problem is figures would need to be analysed and compared as the popular choice back then was morphine.

    From wiki—
    The German drug company Bayer named its new over the counter drug “Heroin” in 1895.[9] The name was derived from the German word “heroisch” (heroic) due to its perceived “heroic” effects upon a user.[9] It was chiefly developed as a morphine substitute for cough suppressants that did not have morphine’s addictive side-effects. Morphine at the time was a popular recreational drug, and Bayer wished to find a similar but non-addictive substitute to market.[10] However, contrary to Bayer’s advertising as a “non-addictive morphine substitute,” heroin would soon have one of the highest rates of dependence amongst its users.

    I really hope we wake up as a society and stop punishing people for addiction we need to educate and regulate the markets, that was the intention of the missuse of drugs act, it was and is a great piece of legislation its the bastardisation of the act that isn’t so great.

    Just thought I would inform people of how absurd and inhumane prohibition is……..
    I worked with homeless people for a number of years and in a discussion with one of my clients she informed me she turned to drugs to cope with memories from her childhood. I guessed at the time she had been abused to some extent however this was not confirmed until about a year later when she broke down and went into graphic detail of what she could cope with telling me, it turned out she had been sexualy abused as a child and systematicaly raped in her adolesence by a family friend. She turned to heroin because it helped her forget these horrid memories, as a society we should have helped this girl but instead we locked her up, she actualy spent more time in prison through drug offences than the perpetrator of the vile acts she was forced to endure as a child. A few days before a court for yet another possesion charge she came to see me to say goodbye. Sadly I misinterpreted the goodbye saying “I will see you when you get out” she replied “I hope not” laughing. The next day I realised my misunderstanding when we were informed she had took an overdose the night before and had died. The verdict for her death was overdose but I know different she was just a fragile wee lass with horrendous memorys who couldn’t suffer another stretch in prison! I’m sure, if we spent a small percentage of what we spend on prohibition on mental health and counceling services that girl might just have made it.
    Is it justice to punish people who use some drugs to forget horrific memories but yet give others complete exemption from prosecution because there drugs despite killing more people are socialy acceptable and regarded as fun? No it isn’t! Prohibiting alcohol and ciggs isnt either prohibiting prohibition and instead educating people and regulating the markets will work far better than the legal age to buy heroin being ten pounds no questions asked!

  26. Jake
    20/10/2010 at 4:09 pm

    @Brian. I actually meant that the percentage of the population who become addicted proper to any substance (including alcohol and tobacco) overall has remained relatively constant. But yes you are right that the balance has shifted between which substances are the primary addicting ones people use. Regarding Heroin, its funny that only after prohibition did numbers rise exponentially… but then that was to be expected by the experts, who were ignored by the politicians who think that tabloid journalists somehow know better… sound familiar?

  27. Brian
    21/10/2010 at 11:19 pm

    I think any market which is left to the criminal element to promote will be succesfull you only have to look at fake goods such as t-shirts and clothes to realise that, what is disgusting however is governments lack of control over markets such as drugs where the legal age to buy any drug is £10 this must change and we must realise prohibition does not mean control it actualy means the exact opposite!

  28. Carl.H
    22/10/2010 at 2:24 pm

    @ Brian

    I don`t think the criminal element promote T-shirts and clothes however I agree that their is a growing market for “fake” goods. I emphasise the “fake” simply because at times it is often the third world manufacturers of “real” goods who run off a few thousand more, so infact at times the fakes are the same as real.

    As you say criminality happens even in a market that is controlled, trading standards do their best, I expect they`ll be hit by cuts too.

    This is what I still believe would happen in the case of drugs, the criminality will still be there undercutting any legalised source. There will be elements within the legalised system that would partake in criminality.

    Prohibition would still exist, as it does now with other products but it will not stop the criminal element infact it would help them.

    I doubt the problem will ever be sorted, the law is often slow, unpoliceable and idiotic. Take a look at duty law on growing your own tobacco.

    http://www.freesmoking.co.uk/moreinfoUK.html

  29. Jake
    22/10/2010 at 5:29 pm

    Lord Norton, you should take solace in the fact that you are not the only one to suggest such ‘radical’ ideas. Today, Anand Grover, from India, who is the “UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health” has called for a change of approach to drug policy due to the human rights abuses that have been committed in the name of prohibition. The EU welcomed this call too.
    http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com/2010/10/un-expert-calls-for-fundamental-shift.html

    It calls on govt’s to:

    -Ensure that all harm-reduction measures (as itemized by UNAIDS) and drug-dependence treatment services, particularly opioid substitution therapy, are available to people who use drugs, in particular those among incarcerated populations.
    -Decriminalize or de-penalize possession and use of drugs.
    -Repeal or substantially reform laws and policies inhibiting the delivery of essential health services to drug users, and review law enforcement initiatives around drug control to ensure compliance with human rights obligations.
    -Amend laws, regulations and policies to increase access to controlled essential medicines
    -To the UN drug control agencies, Mr Grover recommends the creation of an alternative drug regulatory framework based on a model such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

    …sensible and fair of course… but just how long will we allow these ‘radical’ suggestions to be too ‘politically sensitive’ in the face of mountains of evidence…?

  30. Jake
    22/10/2010 at 8:05 pm

    @Carl. Couple of things, firstly regarding prohibition of other things that would help criminals – some things should be prohibited, such as us discussing guns in a previous post, the thing with drugs though is the money they generate. It is estimated that at $320bn a year in global illicit drugs, the drug market constitutes 1% of overall global trade, and even helped prop up banks during the recent recession due to high amounts of liquid cash being deposited. Other things may be prohibited but they do not bring in this level of profit which is the difference.

    To argue that stopping prohibition on drugs which has many wide raging benefits to society, is outweighed by the (supposed) increase in sales of fake T-shirts doesn’t make sense. There are benefits and disadvantages to every policy decision made, the current drug policy has many disadvantages which outweigh any potential benefits so choosing a different policy, albeit with its own problems, will overall be far better for society – a net gain.

    Also, in that article it said “Tobacco use is detrimental to health with significant wider social costs. Growing tobacco at home for personal consumption has, potentially, particularly adverse health consequences as its manufacture is totally unregulated and is not subject to the same limits on tar and nicotine levels as commercially produced tobacco. It is appropriate, therefore, to deter such tobacco consumption in the same way as the Government seek to deter consumption of commercially produced tobacco.” So the Government admits its harmful but takes the most pragmatic approach to reduce harm and use… why not all drugs…

    And the law is not always ‘often slow’, just look at the knee-jerk reaction with the banning of Mephedrone, happened in a matter of months after tabloid outcry. In fact it is usually fast to add punishment but the opposite to take it away. Nothing has happened yet as no politician has been brave enough to publicly expose the failings of the current policy and make it an issue to get it changed..

  31. Brian
    23/10/2010 at 5:27 pm

    One thing that eludes common sense is sativex, at the moment cannabis is a schedule 1 drug (which means it has no medical use), why aren’t the chemists supplying sativex up on charges of supplying drugs. It makes no sense to me is this a mistake by government? Do they actualy know what the other hand is doing?

    • Jake
      25/10/2010 at 10:28 pm

      @Brian: Schedule 1 is ‘technically’

      (A) The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
      (B) The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment.
      (C) There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

      Which, yes, is pretty much BS on all three counts. If Cannabis is a ‘real’ schedule 1 by that measure they need a whole new level for Alcohol and tobacco. The lower the level the ‘worse’ the drug is, so for the government permitted ‘legal’ drugs, I’d have put them at say… -5

  32. Jake
    26/10/2010 at 11:09 am

    One more thing – when I said earlier that yes we should prescribe diamorphine (Heroin) on the NHS, whilst implementing a compassionate policy focused on health, not criminality – just look what happens when you follow science/evidence not ‘morals’ and ‘ideology’ to back up why, http://drogriporter.hu/en/swiss (10mins vid)

  33. 15/11/2010 at 1:16 am

    Lord Norton, I have created a video to bullet point prohibition and regulation, and what they mean in real terms.

    Also, it is very important to address the Misuse of Drugs Act properly as most in power do not. I am often left wondering if anyone has actually read it recently; the point of the MDA seems to have been missed entirely in favour of all out prohibition. The very first thing you read in the MDA is a regulatory clause if evidence points that way. Well, suffice to say, as explained in the video, the evidence has been clear for some time, but has been ignored.

    Thank you once more, Jason:

    Video:

    http://tinyurl.com/2uy7loo

  34. Brian
    16/11/2010 at 5:36 am

    I hope the comments from this page are usefull to you Lord Nelson. I doubt very much if I will be able to contribute any more. I was caught last year growing my medicine (cannabis) for the effective relief of arthritic pain no doubt I will be sent to prison for the major crime of reducing ones suffering. I wish you well in your attempts to change things and to stop other medicinal users of cannabis going to prison for easing there suffering!

  35. Brian
    16/11/2010 at 5:37 am

    I called you lord Nelson lol sory Lord Norton

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