Would decriminalising drugs work?
We are losing the war on drugs according to Professor Sir Ian Gilmour. His personal comments made to doctors as he steps down as President of the Royal College of Physicians, are made from a clinical perspective. As a doctor he says he has seen many more addicts hospitalised by dirty needles and contaminated heroin, than from the drug itself.
He is calling for the decriminalisation of drug use. He backs the views of the UK Bar Council chairman Nicholas Green QC when he called for drug laws to be reconsidered. In July, Stephen Rolles from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation set out a detailed argument for decriminalisation in the British Medical Journal. That article pointed to experiences in Portugal, some US states and the Netherlands to support its central theme that current drug enforcement policies are failing.
Decriminalisation has been flatly rejected by the Home Office which points to the immense harm caused by heroin, cocaine and cannabis. Last year the UK's chief drugs adviser Professor David Nutt was sacked by the then Labour government after criticising drug policy. He accused ministers of distorting scientific evidence when it reclassified cannabis to Class B from C.
Sir Ian Gilmour's comments will re-open the debate on how and if the war on drugs can be won.
Although decriminalisation maybe a step too far for the coalition government, it will be interesting to see how it adapts current policy - a major review is due to end in December.