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Would decriminalising drugs work?

Fergus Walsh | 19:03 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

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 Journalheroin.jpg. 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.

Comments

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  • 1. At 8:00pm on 17 Aug 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    Like the UK, we in Canada have been playing with the idea of drug legalization for a long time. Now we are looking at a European country that actually took the plunge: Portugal.
    Ten years ago, Portugal had @ 100,000 heroin addicts; this was an astounding 1% of the total population. It was felt that this addiction was linked to one of the highest HIV rates in Europe (i.e. through re-used drug paraphenalia).
    Portugal became the first European country to decriminalize ALL drugs.
    The result: Portugal's addiction rate dropped 50%. HIV infections dropped more than 90%. To say nothing of easing pressures on the legal system, including jail space.
    Evidently, the change in policy works.
    In Portugal addicts are not turned into criminals; users caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug are referred to a panel comprised of
    - a drug-treatment specialist,
    - a lawyer and
    - a civil servant.
    Together these usually recommend treatment, and guess who pays? The Government!
    If the users decline treatment and go back to abusing drugs, that’s their prerogative; however, statistics demonstrate that users are not choosing that. Instead, @ 50% of the 100,000 heroin addicts Portugal’s Health Ministry recorded in 2000 had by 2008 decided to to take advantage of Government sponsored rehab.
    The number of new HIV cases among users fell from 2,500 in the year 2000 to 200 cases in 2008. Alun Jones, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, stated that these statistics showed major success.
    Mexico has taken notice. Last week, former Mexican President Vicente Fox criticized his country’s US-backed war on drugs, which has left @ 30,000 people dead since December 2006. Fox said Mexico should consider legalizing the production, distribution and sale of drugs. He had no doubt that this change in policy would help stiffle the Mexican drug cartels who profit from the American War on Drugs.
    Would decriminalising drugs in the UK work?
    It's worth a try.

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  • 2. At 8:24pm on 17 Aug 2010, ReetaDGupta wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 3. At 9:18pm on 17 Aug 2010, bobmit wrote:

    Decriminalising drugs is a user focused solution in that it is believed that by taking away the criminality the problem will somehow disappear. In truth market forces prevail in the drug trade and will continue to do so whether the end product is unlawful or not. The largest cost of illegal drugs is the criminal offending by users to fund their habit. That will not change, but many more users are likely to try drugs once they are perceived to be 'non criminal'. Those users will develop dependency and will need to fund their habit just like the current users. Sure, drug offences will vanish but the true cost of drug abuse, and the impact on vicims of theft, robbery, burlary and the like will only increase. Fighting illicit drug use is a difficult battle, but stepping back from the fight because the results are displeasing is social cowardice. A government that tried to legislate away a social evil would not deserve to survive.

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  • 4. At 9:23pm on 17 Aug 2010, tonyel wrote:

    Some drugs are illegal, and others not, primarily for moral reasons. If one were to assign each of the various chemicals people ingest a score of one to ten on various measures of medical malevolence such as, (for example) their acute or chronic toxicity, their addictiveness, and perhaps the closeness of a dangerous dose to a typical dose, to arrive at a calculus of 'harmfulness', there is no way this 'harmfulness' score could be used to order them with the illegal ones at one end and the legal ones at the other.

    For example, alcohol is moderately addictive, can be acutely toxic in overdose, can cause serious health problems with long term heavy usage, and is legal. MDMA is (in a pure form) not addictive, is very rarely (though not never) acutely toxic, and there is little evidence either way on its long term toxicity (although it would be foolish to assume there is none). It is a class A prohibited drug. Paracetamol can be acutely toxic, is not addictive, and its dangerous dose is fairly close to its therapeutic dose. Heroin (in pure medical form) is addictive, causes very few long term health problems (apart from constipation), and has a dangerous dose quite close to its 'therapeutic' dose. Cannabis is not acutely toxic, may (the evidence is sketchy) cause mental problems with long term heavy use, is not addictive, and is a class B (I think) prohibited drug.

    I could go on, but my point is that the illegal ones seem to be singled out for prohibition (apart from alcohol and tobacco, for historical/cultural reasons), by the fact that people use them for enjoyment, which is seen as immoral, and not by any rational calculus of harm.

    I think it is entirely reasonable for society to decide that taking more or less dangerous or addictive substances for fun should be prohibited for moral reasons. However, it is not reasonable to do it dishonestly, claiming it is done on the basis of a rational assessment of harm, when it is clearly not. If I am wrong about this, could someone please provide me with the formula used by government convert objective measures of harm into a decision on legality? Because try as I might, I can't work it out.

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  • 5. At 9:57pm on 17 Aug 2010, Lance wrote:

    Writing from the U.S. There are many arguments that support decriminalizing drugs with abuse potential. Most of them stand up very well to logical analysis, but can be attacked with emotional arguments, uninformed propaganda, those with a vested interest in the status quo, and politicians afraid of controversy. Let's look at a few:
    1. tobacco and alcohol are legal, abused, and devastating to health on a very broad basis. It is illogical to allow these but not other drugs.
    2. Drug prohibition runs parallel to the failed experience with alcohol Prohibition.
    3. Over the last fifty years, during a constant growth in both drug use and abuse in the West vs. anti-drug legislation plus attempted suppression and control, the latter is a miserable failure: thousands if not millions of ruined lives; trillions spent in the failed efforts at borders, in courts, in prisons, in clinics, and on the streets; trillions more into the coffers of the drug cartels; sociologic, cultural, and political corruption; disrespect from the public for the failed legal efforts. In short, prohibition and control have failed; to continue in that vein is pointless.
    4. Any kid who wants any drug and has the money can walk out on the street and buy it any time of the day or night. What protection is the current system providing?
    5. All the money and resources being spent on the legal side can be routed into social programs to battle the causes of drug abuse, leading to a healthier society ethically, physically, and mentally.
    6. The entire illegal side of the equation would suffer, and the legal side would thrive.
    7. Addicts would be on the right side of the law.
    8. Money spent to buy legal drugs can help pay for social programs, regulation, prevention, etc.

    I'm sure many others have equal or better arguments than these. the best reply to those supporting the status quo is "Where is the evidence that this system works?" Anyone supporting the current methods is either woefully uninformed or has a vested interest in continuing the failure.

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  • 6. At 11:00pm on 17 Aug 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    Would decriminalising drugs work?

    Yes... if you mean by 'work' is lessening the damage and cost to society of addictive drugs.

    Perhaps the best way of all is to ensure that a substantial proportion of addictive drugs are rapidly fatal, at first use, for example - glue sniffing had this 'advantage'. This will minimise the cost to society. There is of course the other desire to rehabilitate and 'save' addicts from themselves driven substantially by the Christian ethic. I don't see that enabling the addicts to gain easy access to drugs can help this aim.

    The balance between doing-good to the addict and reduce harm to the rest of us is complex. However getting rid of addicts is a terrible step to contemplate - indeed as terrible and as unacceptable as those taken by the Third Reich so we have logically help them to survive, but we must also protect everyone else from them so far as is possible.

    Now, thinking about this a little: one economical choice might be to legalise drugs and make them freely available in a designated location(s) such as an off-shore and remote island - is this a use for St Kilda perhaps! (Or a number of remote and defensible places.) That is: we should build drug colonies - much like a gulag.

    This system might also work with other groups with socially and medically undesirable addictions - such as tobacco or excessive drinking. But what this boils down to is just an expansion of the present system of addiction clinics! But my essential idea is that addicts of drugs/tobacco or excessive drink would need to travel to designated places that were difficult to get to and be there at designated times to get free (or at least below market price) access to their addictive substance and this seems worth exploring to me.

    Many countries have tried this with liquor being available only at government stores. for example. The key is make the act of using the undesired substance as unattractive as possible - for example not permitting anything but bright lights, hard wooden benches and no music, dancing or other entertainment or indeed heating and perhaps all such places should be equipped with a dummy laughing policeman to heap derision and degradation upon the addicts - addiction must be de-glamorised. Perhaps addicts should have to dress in some from of identification too - like an orange tabard when visiting these substance issuing sites. Free (or at least below market price) access with elements of humiliating derision - that might work - not really like a prison camp or gulag but uncomfortable but with the price as an attraction. Which of us would not go out of our way for drink without duty or vat! Scotch at a a couple of pounds a bottle - rather than 15 pounds a bottle. But I doubt if society can put up with being this rational!!!

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  • 7. At 09:28am on 18 Aug 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #4. tonyel wrote:

    "...could someone please provide me with the formula used by government convert objective measures of harm into a decision on legality."

    It is my opinion that the government's measure of harm is related closely to the cost of dealing with the consequences of the addiction in terms of both direct and indirect costs. Direct including the loss of revenue in taxes and indirect including the cost of crime to feed the habit and the cost of treating the addiction. (see my discussion above) Now, legality is related to harm in a complex way and this included the perception of damage and the political costs of not appeasing the mass media (mainly the tabloid press). There is a dissonance between effective measures to reduce harm (as I define above) and legality (as I also define above) - but the tabloid press are not strong on persuading the state to do the intelligent thing rather than the one that makes a good headline!

    There is also a strong internal lobby within the criminal handling civil servants that they do not want to see a reduction in the number of crimes and criminals with which to fill their prisons as this lessens their personal power - for this reason alone addiction should not be handled by the Home Office.

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  • 8. At 10:05am on 18 Aug 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    Fergus Walsh.

    "We are losing the war on drugs.."

    legislating against people's desires and (instinctive) drives will never work anyway, the only results from this "war" are increases in organised crime, increasing numbers of criminalised (and stigmatised) citizens, and many actual war deaths in Columbia, Afghanistan, etc.

    "Decriminalisation has been flatly rejected by the Home Office which points to the immense harm caused by heroin, cocaine and cannabis."

    shame on you, Mr Walsh, for not pointing out that the Home Office's policy amounts to a neglect of duty (viz public health), and for failing to provide a thorough analysis.

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  • 9. At 10:15am on 18 Aug 2010, Megan wrote:

    It is typical of the mediocre quality of today's politicians that in this matter, like so many others, they ignore everyone who has a clue what they are talking about but barge ahead with their own ill-considered ideas.

    It should not even be the business of the state what the individual chooses to ingest. Who asked them to interfere?

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  • 10. At 10:52am on 18 Aug 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #9. Megan wrote:

    "It should not even be the business of the state what the individual chooses to ingest."

    Have you thought through what you have written? Are you advocating refusing to treat the results of drug overdose by the NHS? Would you really leave addicts to die on the streets? (And I refer to addicts in general - not just drug addicts.) Are you not yourself guilty of propounding ill-considered ideas!!!???

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  • 11. At 10:59am on 18 Aug 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    John_from_Hendon #10.

    utter rubbish. your reply to Megan makes you sound like one of these too many nanny-state proponents, like those who said Routemaster buses were too dangerous because people might have accidents getting on and off.

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  • 12. At 11:14am on 18 Aug 2010, Radar wrote:

    @ BluesBerry, I don't think I've read a better response to any blog on the BBC.

    @ John_from_Henden, I assume Megan is mearly stating that it should be a persons choice if they wish to experience a drug and risk the consequences.

    If drugs were legalised and taxed the monies saved from prohibition and gained from taxation could be used to treat those taking drugs, including rehabilitation.

    It is rediculous historical reasons and media pressures that have lead to our current crazy drug policy. Religion, the uninformed/sensationalist (tabloid) media and pressure groups should have no place in policy making. One of the worst things the last government did in my opinion was sack Professor Nott, simply because he disagreed. I am sure he has much more knowledge on the subject matter than those to whom he was reporting.

    I believe we only live once, therefore, as long as you aren't negatively impacting on any other living creature you should be free to do as you please. This is why I am against prohibition, despite the fact that the only drug I use is one of the more dangerous - alcohol.

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  • 13. At 11:21am on 18 Aug 2010, Arunas wrote:

    Well written, @BluesBerry. Exatcly the sort of debate we need.

    The politicians are however ONLY and SOLELY concerned about the number of votes they get, not really interested in logical debate. So the voters need to engage, understand the alternative approaches and demand these changes.

    "Legalize" does not need to mean "free for all" and "nobody cares". Drug abuse carries a cost to individuals and society and needs to be fought. Prohibition is however is not the solution, not even a solution. It is a wonderful way to finance criminal gangs, and I am afraid powerful mafia bosses will be doing all they can to keep drugs illegal so they can continue to profit. We need to be smarter and stronger than this.

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  • 14. At 11:40am on 18 Aug 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    The move of cannabis to class B had several intended or unintended results depending on how you choose to view it.

    The intellectual person will see that it was just a weak move by government to spread fear about cannabis, when in turn all it did was add 5 billion in revenue to organized crime. Something I pointed out last year to our current leaders. Also on the intellectual side you have medical properties of the plant. If you take a close look at he human body and its working you come across a very inconvenient truth... We run on cannabinoids every thought, memory, disease fought by the immune system is thanks to these proteins. We can then move on further now that we understand the illness of the body to treat it with these proteins as I have tried to tell You several times Fergus :) Not to mention all the other industrial uses of the fibers from the plant.
    The news paper monkeys just scream the old reefer madness rhetoric. which im afraid is totally untrue and early onset psychosis is from fetal alcohol damage during early neurogenesis, Dave Nutt thinks this is an interesting theory, as it also relates to other areas of fetal damage by ethanol on the ECSN during development such as the recently highlighted damaged reproduction systems in adult males from women who drunk during pregnancy.

    more later. allotment time Im glad you took this up Fergus it need sorting out.

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  • 15. At 11:52am on 18 Aug 2010, Alex Burke wrote:

    From my experience of the drug world as a younger lad I can tell you now that if the drugs were not being forced onto young people by unscrupulous dealers this problem although would by no means disappear would certainly reduce in a more controlled environment. Let me explain.

    I started smoking cigarettes at 13 (a great legal drug according to the powers that be, but that has already been well documented argument) This contrary to popular belief was the 'gateway' drug, not cannabis as is so much touted in the scare headline press. However at 14 I started smoking cannabis, maybe because of peer pressure, maybe because I wanted to know what the hype was all about, I genuinely don't remember. But in doing so i brought myself into a circle of dealers who's sole purpose was to get me hooked on much harder stuff. Within 2 months I was offered cocaine by one dealer, and in fairness the sales pitch i was given for the drug made it sound amazing, (needless to say none of the drawbacks were ever pointed out by the dealers, funny that!). I admit in my younger naive mind I did try it and for a period took a fair bit of the stuff. Around my 15th birthday I was offered heroin, again it was described as the best thing ever, greatest high etc, again nothing of the massive addiction, health problems etc. Here is where I saw a bit of sense (mostly because I hate needles) but I don't deny I toyed with the idea for a while.

    The reason why I am telling this story is that this is the typical way that a young person heads into the current drug world and how it is very easy for them to get hooked on the class A drugs. It was probably my fear of needles that saved me from that.

    My point is that the criminalisation of these drugs puts them into the hands of people who are hell bent on getting you buy the highly addictive, highly profitable drugs. And although the police/justice system spends millions on trying to stop it, the fact that it is an underground world with huge profits mean that even if they get a big fish supplier, there will be a whole bunch more waiting to take their place, it is a never ending cycle that has gone on for 40 odd years and has failed, its time to think differently.

    Oh and on the crime front, here is a simple thought. I don't know how much heroin is now, figures touted are in the region of £60 a day for a serious addict (correct me if I am wrong), now say a stolen car stereo gets the addict £20 of stuff, he needs to nick 3 stereos a day. But if he was paying a prescription charge of £8 a month or whatever then that is only one car stereo a month. crime reduced... not an ideal solution but its a start!

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  • 16. At 12:56pm on 18 Aug 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #11. jr4412 wrote:

    "John_from_Hendon #10.

    utter rubbish. your reply to Megan makes you sound like one of these too many nanny-state proponents"

    and

    #12. Radar wrote:

    "@ John_from_Henden, I assume Megan is mearly stating that it should be a persons choice if they wish to experience a drug and risk the consequences."

    Is it not for for Megan to explain what they intend to do with the consequences of drug use? I object to the sloppy half thought through answers that both of you (jr4412 and Radar) seem to happily accept. I would rather spend money in the health service on those who become ill or have accidents who have not substantially contributed to them through their own actions. Just like the perpetrators of car accident's have to pay the cost of their own and their victims treatment why should the addict not compensate the rest of us for the enormous cost of the obvious consequences of their actions?

    The chronically obese who refuse to attempt to moderate their excess food consumption and take exercise; the alcoholic who makes no effort to curtail their drinking and the smoker who refuses to stop are in my mind just as unworthy of receiving the free services of the NHS. Further the drug addict who commits crime to pay for their habit are doubly unworthy. Sweeping this under the carpet as you two seem to wish to do is chronically naïve.

    Radar, you write "...a persons choice if they wish to experience a drug and risk the consequences" but the addict inflicts the consequences of their action on others and society - should we meekly submit to these people. You would presumably see causing a car accident through excessive speed as a person's choice. You clearly do not think that society has any say in how it is impacted by the actions of its members - please think your ideas through. Let your addicts pay for private health insurance to cover the consequences of their actions and a compensation fund to reimburse the costs of their criminality and I might be more persuaded to agree with you! The addicts are leeches on society and we need to understand this!

    jr4412, the stupid assertion that the rest of us have to pay for the life choices of the few idiots is nothing to do with a 'nanny state' it is economic theft and misappropriation by the few addicts from the many - they are stealing their unfair proportion of the shared benefit of the NHS - are you happy with this? You clearly would also be quite happy that bankers can steal the wealth of the poor! Get real!

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  • 17. At 1:04pm on 18 Aug 2010, Steve wrote:

    Would decriminalising drugs work?...

    ... "nope".

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  • 18. At 1:36pm on 18 Aug 2010, David wrote:

    I live in The Netherlands where the great tolerance experiment re canabis has run its course over the last 30 years. Interestingly the Dutch have now woken up to the fact that decriminalisation does not work and have now catagorsied canabis and organised crime involvment in its production as one of the biggest threats that their country faces (above heroin and cocaine). The reason? organised crime is still involved in, still control it and are responsible for murder and criminality to protect it. In addition the vast profits being made are channeled back into the legitimate economy, thereby destabilising it. None of this is good.

    Sorry folks, there is no easy answer - criminalise or decriminalise it. The only real answer as i see it is to carry on targetting organised crime regardless of what commodity they are peddling. that way you tackle the misery makers not the users and the addicted.

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  • 19. At 1:36pm on 18 Aug 2010, Alex Burke wrote:

    @17 Thank you for your intelligently formed and factually backed up argument. Perhaps you could give us your reasons why it wont work

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  • 20. At 1:40pm on 18 Aug 2010, Bill Harris wrote:

    One need not travel to China to find indigenous cultures lacking human rights. America leads the world in percentile behind bars, thanks to the ongoing open season on hippies, commies, and non-whites in the war on drugs. Cops get good performance reviews for shooting fish in a barrel. If we’re all about spreading liberty abroad, then why mix the message at home? Peace on the home front would enhance global credibility.

    Rooting out the number-one cash crop in the land burns tax dollars instead of booking them. Arresting Americans for gardening empowers outlaws to take over Mexico. Political prisoner Marc Emery’s crime was to keep Madame Secretary Clinton’s promise to Calderon. Emery sold seed to American farmers, reducing U. S. demand for Mexican pot.

    Prison flushes lives down expensive tubes, paid for by our descendants. My shaman’s second opinion is that psychoactive plants are God’s gift. Behold, it’s all good. When Eve ate the apple, she knew a good apple, and evil prohibition. The DEA says, “We don’t need no stinking amendment.”

    Nixon passed the CSA (Controlled Substances Act of 1970) on the false assurance that the Schafer Commission would later justify criminalizing his enemies, but he underestimated Schafer’s integrity. No amendments can assure due process under an anti-science law without due process itself. Psychology hailed the breakthrough potential of LSD, until the CSA shut down research, and pronounced that marijuana has no medical use.

    The RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) allows Native American Church members to eat peyote. Non-placebo sacraments remain prohibited to everybody else. Freedom of Religion, and the free exercise thereof under the First Amendment, applies for all Americans; protecting use of entheogen sacraments to mediate communion. Mortal lawmakers should not presume to thwart the intelligent design that molecular keys unlock spiritual doors.

    Freedom of speech presupposes freedom of thought. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate any governmental power to embargo diverse states of mind. Legislators who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction. How and when did government usurp this power to coerce conformity? The Puritans sailed to escape coerced religious conformity, only to themselves coerce conformity on Quakers. Persons who appreciate their own free choice of path in life should tolerate seekers’ self-exploration.

    Common-law holds that adults are the legal owners of their own bodies. The Founding Fathers undersigned that the God-given rights of liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable. Socrates said to know your self. He paid with his life for corrupting youths by discussing the unjust hypocrisies of the powerful.

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  • 21. At 2:18pm on 18 Aug 2010, Weevee wrote:

    I've been having this conversation with my Dad since i was a fairly young person - late teens / early 20s. And i agree with decrimilisation of drugs
    Let me preface this a bit. I'm not a drugs user, nor do i think I'll be one. However being in my mid / late twenties I've seen drug use and know drug users. Are they criminals who head out to knock off offlicences on a regular basis? err no, though i admit that these people are well off and hold down good jobs.
    I believe that the criminalisation of drugs is actually bad for our country - and wider than that too, the world.
    I have this view because of a number of reasons. I'm going to lay some of them out in a simplistic fashion:
    Look at the differences in say Tobacco farming and opiates - Tobacco is legal most countries, Opiate drugs generally not.
    1) The money made from farming tobacco can be taxed in that country and used to build schools, roads, hospitals etc. The money made from farming flowers goes to...well its probably not spent on bettering the community...guns anyone?
    2) Legitimate companies ship said tobacco around the world for manufacturing into various goods and shops for retail. This is all taxable (technically).Drugs are smuggled around, often in very dangerous ways for the person smuggling them - for example in their stomach.
    3) Treatment of Alcohol and Tobacco related illnessess cost our NHS a rather large fortune each year. but the Tax generated by the legal sale of these products goes towards it.
    treatment of illegal drug users also costs money, yet none is generated by the manufacture and sale.
    Lets not mention the millions we've spent on the "war" and the cost of restabilising the countries caught up in the fighting.
    I cant help but feel that if the production and sale of these drugs were legalised these criminal organisation would lose a significant proportion of thier income and become less important overall. the cost not just in money now but in the lives of our soldiers and innocent civilians caught up in the fighting.

    Some other points that normally come up:
    A) Tobacco is a drug which directly damages you AND people around you - I know that finally people have to go outside, but its often impossible to not walk thorugh some smoke. (I cannot believe that this is legalised at all by the way, to link to another comment I've read just now).
    Atleast most of these drugs only damage the user.
    B) Tobacco is addictive in its own right, many illegal drugs are not...but the dealers arnt stupid so often cut it with drugs that are. If they were to produce these drugs like they were in the pharmaceutical industry this wouldnt be an issue.
    C) Occasionally there are arguments brought up about if they were sanctioned then more people would use them. well I've never noticed that people had trouble in getting the drugs they wanted, so the supply is there already. is it that the legalisation may legitimise the use of them? possibly, but with the warnings and safe environment that could be setup with this legalisation i dont see how things could be worse than they are now
    D) Crime as a source of buying the drugs...criminals are much more likely to boost prices as they see someone get more desperate to have something.

    And finally: where there is demand there will be supply. Especially when demand is as high as it is. Did we learn nothing from prohibition in the US?

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  • 22. At 2:33pm on 18 Aug 2010, Radar wrote:

    16. At 12:56pm on 18 Aug 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    Radar, you write "...a persons choice if they wish to experience a drug and risk the consequences" but the addict inflicts the consequences of their action on others and society - should we meekly submit to these people. You would presumably see causing a car accident through excessive speed as a person's choice. You clearly do not think that society has any say in how it is impacted by the actions of its members - please think your ideas through. Let your addicts pay for private health insurance to cover the consequences of their actions and a compensation fund to reimburse the costs of their criminality and I might be more persuaded to agree with you! The addicts are leeches on society and we need to understand this!

    ---


    As does the drunk, yet one is tolerated and one is not.

    I would argue that excessive speed would fall into my category of negatively impaction on another living creature. I obviously couldn't spell out exactly how I would like the world in these comments as no sensible person would spend the time reading it. I shall however try and respond, though no doubt you will attempt to twist my words as you have done already.

    I wouldn't have it legal to shoot up in the streets for instance, but in the privacy of your own home I don't have a problem if that's what people want to do. The drugs should be obtained by legal means (retailers controlled by the government) and I am yet to be convinced that we would see an increase in crime to fund a legal habit. In summary, I would have no problem with: legally purchased with taxation applied, taken on private property/licensed premises, paid for with your own money.

    I think you have a perception of those who take drugs that is not constant with the real world. Not everyone who does is an addict, and not every addict is a leech on society. The amount of city workers taking cocaine, who do contribute to society, not forgetting the obvious performers who cannot be without their fix. All of these people pay their taxes. I also know people who smoke cannabis, they do so on a weekend after a full working week in order to relax. I don’t see how these people can be classed as a leech on society, or why they should be criminalised. If they could purchase their product from legal sources then nobody would be negatively affected by their actions.

    As for private health care for addicts, how on earth could you define an addict? Should this not be applied to those already taking much more detrimental drugs such as alcoholics and smokers? It would be impossible to quantify as any line would be arbitrary. However my argument by legalising and taxing these drugs the users are already contributing to their additional healthcare by the additional taxes which they pay. You seem oblivious to the fact that the current drug users already get all of the medical attention that they require from the NHS as a result of their drug use, the difference being that they haven’t paid any form of premium for this.

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  • 23. At 2:55pm on 18 Aug 2010, Radar wrote:

    @ Weevee *Note to self, learn to articulate myself better to argue the point as you have just done. Fully agree with all of the points you have raised.

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  • 24. At 3:11pm on 18 Aug 2010, Grant Jack wrote:

    I think its time that Maraijiuna was comercilized and controlled but legal regulations that allow the drug to give the effect that disired by the public that are using the drug. I think it needs to be restricted by lawy to be sold only to people 21 years of age or over for the goodness of our young and their development.

    I think that the drug has a effect that hurts peoples health if left the way we use the drug. I think it needs to pay a 20% Medicare leavie for research and better development for peoles use. Left the way we take the drug at present is hurting society across the world and could be casuing cancers in people now.

    The THC drug needed for a high needs to be refinded for better ways of taking the drug without leaving peole with health probelms that could later develpe into cancers.

    Taxs need to be paid at a 20% rate for health reasons
    Profits need to be directed into better ways of use
    Research needs to be funded by the drug its self
    Perople need to have a restristed method of getting the drug leagally and at a rate thats not harmful to people

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  • 25. At 4:03pm on 18 Aug 2010, Weevee wrote:

    @ Radar
    Thanks :) I've spent years debating this topic on and off. And get to practise articulating what it is i need to say everyday thanks to work - both talking (presenting / facilitating) and writing.
    @ Arunas
    Well said!
    @ David
    Yes, unfortunately often the right choice is often unclear, and the pros and cons should be very carefully investigated.
    Unforutnately all too often subjects like this do not get the investigation they ultimately deserve because it is such a controversial topic and so the "easy" option is taken (I.E. what it is now), not necessarily the right (or a particularly informed) one.
    @ John
    I'm sorry, I'm not understanding you very clearly. In one post you seemingly accuse someone (Meagan) of wanting to "leave people on the streets" and not thinking things through, but then later seem to advocate this yourself - talk of wanting the NHS not to spend its money on drug addicts, unreformed alcoholics and obese people who have not contributed to their weight loss

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  • 26. At 4:08pm on 18 Aug 2010, Dave wrote:

    I am anti decriminalization and fully support legalization. Fundamentally decriminalization still ensures the black economy profits whilst country ends up paying for the addicts. This is the reason some in Holland perceive their Cannabis policies as being a failure, they decriminalized small quantities and never legalized hence why the profits remained in the black economy and the unpleasant individuals who frequent this environment. The same unpleasant individuals usually involved in the importation, distribution and selling of harder drugs.

    I would support a total legalization of all drugs sold via government vetoed outlets at a cost along the lines of current street prices.

    Cannabis farms could be set up in this country as could laboratories which make Amphetamine, Ecstasy and many of the newer synthetic drugs. A British government endorsed fair trade agreement could be made with Opium producing countries and Cocaine producing countries whereby the sale of these products to the UK is legal and the farmers are paid a fair price whilst being endorsed by their own governments. This would also diminish the suffering often overlooked by drug users in the west in the countries of source.

    These drugs could then be taxed and the profits fed into the NHS, policing, rehabilitation centres and education of children, teenagers and adults. Even if the profits remained in private enterprize then the taxation alone would provide huge benefits for the country as a whole. Economically, rather than billions of pound entering the black economy, they would remain in the 'white economy'. When I say private enterprise I am talking potentially the like of the existing pharmaceutical or brewing companies as opposed to people currently involved in large scale importation who can now go straight under the new laws . Ideally manufacture would be run by a government department to ensure all profits are fed back into the system rather than simply the taxation but if needs must then keep the manufacture separate.

    The way I see it is that the current system is flawed, we make a lots of warlords in Afghanistan and Cartels in South America vey very rich. We also have huge swaths of the country sat on their arses dealing drugs. We then also have huge numbers of addicts being treated like criminals as well as having their health placed in additional jeopardy by dealers and their cutting agents. We have prisons filled with drug users as well as a whole generation of 16 to 25 year olds currently unemployed and I can pretty much guarantee more and more of them turning to drug use which often leads to dealing. It’s a time bomb waiting to explode. After years of Prohibition, drug use is increasing and availability is widening, the current policy is evidently a complete failure. The concept of the judicial system being used to treat a public health issue is ridiculous hence why I advocate complete legalization and not decriminalization.

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  • 27. At 4:24pm on 18 Aug 2010, Weevee wrote:

    & Dave
    well said, I agree. fundamental to the argument behind what I've written above whould be the legalisation of production and distribution of the drugs. Get them out of the hands of the criminals and make them legally in good conditions, taxable, safe(er), with regulation.

    As long as we keep all that in the dark we will still have trouble. to get the real benefit they should be as legal as alcohol and tobacco.

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  • 28. At 5:52pm on 18 Aug 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #22. Radar wrote:

    "As does the drunk, yet one is tolerated and one is not."

    Should we not treat them in the same way? You seem to be arguing that drug users should continue to get treatment on the NHS for substance abuse - why? Also why should the NHS continue to treat any other self inflicted addict or substance abuser for free?

    If you had read what I wrote earlier you should have understood that my arguments support legalisation and the sale by licensed persons at licensed premises, just like alcohol and tobacco, but making it as difficult to buy over the counter as is tobacco, if not more so. I am also all for the tobacco industry having to pay for the full cost of treating all of their addicts too - and that should be easier to implement!

    You raise the question of differentiating between users and addicts. This will always be tricky as is the difference between the alcoholic and the occasional drinker. However it should be clearly understood by users (of all of addictive substances) that they will have to pay the full actual and social costs of addiction. Even as far as a levy on fatty foods to pay for treating the morbidly obese - perhaps implemented by changing a surcharge on the weekly food shop? (Remember when we had food rationing our diet actually improved as did, as I recall, the general health of the country - particularly in Northern Ireland.)

    I see no logical reason that any addictive substance should be treated any differently to any other - all should pay their way and all addiction and use that becomes anti-social need discouraging and that this can be done through market mechanisms - and the licensing of places of distribution and sale.

    As to you comment that "You seem oblivious to the fact that the current drug users already get all of the medical attention that they require from the NHS" - I did not say that at all nor did I imply that - what I said was that they 'unfairly' get free treatment for their addiction and substance misuse and self-harm - this is also undesirable just as is treating obese people for their addiction etc... This is why I introduced the idea that the polluter pays - or in this case the system abuser pays.

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  • 29. At 6:41pm on 18 Aug 2010, richardbalfour wrote:

    why not allow freedom to use drugs/alcohol/smoking unless a doctor diagnoses you must give up your habit to treat your illness. failure to do this results in cessation of treatment from the medical services, and or access to the benefits system, thereby allowing us to be in control of our own situation.

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  • 30. At 6:55pm on 18 Aug 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    John_from_Hendon #16.

    "..the stupid assertion that the rest of us have to pay for the life choices of the few idiots is nothing to do with a 'nanny state' it is economic theft and misappropriation by the few addicts from the many - they are stealing their unfair proportion of the shared benefit of the NHS - are you happy with this? You clearly would also be quite happy that bankers can steal the wealth of the poor!"

    when it comes to "economic theft and misappropriation by the few" I'm more inclined to think of bankers and politicians -- addicts too, to power and wealth.

    fwiw, most people of my acquaintance who I know to use, em, proscribed substances, work and pay their taxes, are fairly mature and do not constitute a 'burden on society'.

    my point re nanny-state was that (like Megan) I do not believe it is anybodies business how I wish to alter my mood or perception (temporarily), the current legislation is in fact impinging on my rights as an individual.

    apparently though, you see nothing wrong with moralising, take your #6 for instance: "Perhaps the best way of all is to ensure that a substantial proportion of addictive drugs are rapidly fatal ... we should build drug colonies - much like a gulag ... my essential idea is that addicts of drugs/tobacco or excessive drink would need to travel to designated places that were difficult to get to ... Perhaps addicts should have to dress in some from of identification too.."

    what, wear little yellow stars on our prison uniforms? crickey!!

    you say "..make the act of using the undesired substance as unattractive as possible.."(#6). undesired by whom? you?? and who are you?? obviously (at least to me) a deeply illiberal, ethically stunted person -- a picture book fascist.

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  • 31. At 9:05pm on 18 Aug 2010, Sutara wrote:

    These are complex issues.

    For sure, the moral outrage approach of 'if something is wrong then ban it and bash people up for doing it' seems to be a pretty typically British approach to many a problem. And clearly, it isn't always a helpful or healthy one.

    However, saying that a current solution doesn't work is not the same as saying we have another solution that works better. What if decriminalisation actually causes us more social harm and hurt?

    These things have cultural, political and economic contexts. Maybe decriminalistion would have been a better way forward a few years ago when we were economically stronger? Maybe there is more of a case for it now? Are there differences in the public services in Portugal, or in the way society perceives the problem that would make it more, or less, likely for any measurable success there to be replicated here? Should the 'solution' be the same for England as for Scotland? Should the approach used in densely populated urban areas also be used in thinly populated rural ones?

    If drug use leads to crime in order to fund drug buying and taking, are different approaches required for wealthy drug users versus poor ones?

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  • 32. At 9:07pm on 18 Aug 2010, danielcarter wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 33. At 9:28pm on 18 Aug 2010, Financial Oxymorons wrote:

    This story http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-11016645 , rightly or wrongly, reminded me of typical fix crimes - desperate actions for any cash to feed a habit. What are the statistics on violent acts to feed habits, never mind stolen car stereos as described in an earlier post.

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  • 34. At 10:05pm on 18 Aug 2010, J Herer wrote:

    Legalize and let's stop the pretence. How about spending the billions that are uselessly spent on this so-called "drug-war" on education and health. Or stamping out poverty. How about the hundreds of millions that are spent on court cases then imprisonment for the dealers that result in career criminals, and spend it on renewable energy. Maybe the hundreds of thousands of hours of police time wasted on tracking dealers could be spent making Britain a safe place to live.
    It smells like the biggest conspiracy and covert operation the world has ever had is going on under our noses every day and we are helpless to do anything about it.

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  • 35. At 11:47pm on 18 Aug 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    from marks Eastons blog .. god 2 to talk on hmmm cut n paste me thinks.

    I have to say as a community leader that the problem with drugs is prohibition in communities, drugs dont harm communities the law does as it enacts its mandatory rights to abuse sub sections of society, usually some of the most damaged people in society.

    Now we just need the government to get of its moral high ground and provide a legal system for cannabis and medical systems for heroin addictions.

    The government statement on drugs is wrong more harm is caused by the current interpretation of MODA than by the drugs themselves.
    Our community is a classic example of this failed policy, as the lines are blurred the drugs grouped together and new legal ones appear small time dealers are fighting each other for the gateway income to the legal high markets.
    Small time dealers are being robbed at knife point.. never happened when cannabis was £70-£90 the ounce now its an average of £220 an ounce its a commodity worth fighting over, even worth killing over.

    Time to face the cold harsh reality that the war on drugs has been an expensive failure which only causes more harm.

    All our troops in Afghanistan are on the front line of the drug war this government in its actions and response to the current suggestion to a new way forward is highly disrespectful to the families and soldiers that have died in this drug war.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    #7 the link between THC AEA and early onset schizophrenia may hold some fact.. but only in the sense that THC may cause accelerated neurogenesis and populate the cells on an already damaged microstructure revealing an illness that was formed when the hippocampus was built in the first place and would have naturally occurred within a few days weeks months or years of puberty beginning the full scale construction of the adult brain, with mass population of the frontal brain/hippocampus.

    but what do i know im not a politician.

    If we still had the "British system" I would quiet possably still also have a brother. Thats the realy sad cost of this war on drugs the human life invovled be it addict or soldier both are needless deaths. I will never meet a whole generation of family due to the heroin addiction he had the life he lead the harms he caused.

    Time for change not more of the same time for respect of life not criminilisation and abandnment, why must so much hate and malice be poured onto one section of sociaty for thier social and cultural choices.

    Ive also been an addict several times in my life to some realy nasty drugs that at the time i could not live without. these were prescribed by my doctor I kicked those and now use cannabinoids which do the same things in the body at a celular level but with out the addictions and side effects. Time to grow up about drugs and reletive harms.
    What would the public say if they were told that if everyone over the age of 40 ate a low dose of well cured cannabis every night as a supliment they could save the NHS 100's millions i un-needed pain killers and anti inflamotorys as everyone would be getting a natural boost to thier own bodys immune system, let alone safeguarding celualar life span in the brain were the bodys own THC AEA controls the immune systems and repair systems of the brain so we would see a drop in demensia cases. Then we come to the cancers of the body THC mixed with other antagonists of the human endocannabinoid network is shown to activly reduce and kill cancer even the most aggresive forms that reamin so far untreatable.

    None of this can be looked at though as its a banned substance not illegal, no such thing human use is illegal the plant isn't.

    the structure of social control needs to change we as a sociaty need to change and the governemt needs to relese its last form of mass social persicution, whites on the right blacks on the right. brown eyes stand blue eyes sit. is the Moral of the day..


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markeaston/2010/08/drugs_policy_the_british_system.html#comments

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  • 36. At 11:50pm on 18 Aug 2010, yumyum wrote:

    What we really need is a televised debate with several government figures.

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  • 37. At 10:29am on 19 Aug 2010, Megan wrote:

    Sorry, I was busy on other things yesterday, but I expect I had better chip in again and explain myself...

    I'm not quite sure how you equate "Not the state's business to interfere..." with leaving those in need unattended.

    I'm very clear about what I hire the state to do - and their role is to provide the services that the individual citizen cannot provide for himself, not to dictate to that citizen how he should live his life provided that he does not harm others by what he chooses to do.

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  • 38. At 11:23am on 19 Aug 2010, Peter Reynolds wrote:

    The drugs issue is gaining huge momentum. Government policy looks increasingly ridiculous. More and more people are "getting it". Prohibition just doesn't work. Cowardly politicans have failed to grasp this nettle for years. Change is coming.

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/the-drugs-debate/

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  • 39. At 12:09pm on 19 Aug 2010, Ross Cranham wrote:

    I think there's a lot of confusion here between drug users and drug addicts and it's muddying up the waters a bit.
    Most people who work in drugs charities will tell you that there is a big difference between the two. Drug users are not going to commit drug related crimes to fuel a habit because they don't have a habit. Addiction is a mental illness that needs to be treated whether it's to drugs (including alcohol), gambling or cigarettes which is normally caused by either a genetic predilection to such behaviour or because of self medication of depression caused by other events.

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  • 40. At 12:21pm on 19 Aug 2010, Ross Cranham wrote:

    I've read John complaining about the massive drain that drug use is on the NHS and society at large. Thankfully the reason why the NHS exists is so that those in better circumstances can help support those in worse. It's one of the reasons I love living in the UK because our welfare system recognises that this should occur. Addiction is an illness that is more commonly associate with those from a poorer socio-economic background. Being rich or poor is generally as a result of an accident of birth not because of some ill-conceived idea of having earnt it. You're rich because you were either born with the genetic capability to improve your economic status or because you were already born into a more privileged background.
    The benefits of legalisation would mean that drugs could be taxed and thereby used to pay for the NHS care that would result from use. The benefits of such are really pretty obvious. Also it would mean that those people who do not break the law in any other way would stop having to interact with organised crime. We criminalise people for exercising their right to personal choice. To me that's unacceptable. I believe in personal choice, if you want to engage in behaviour that is damaging to yourself (which I believe everyone does in some way or another) that's fine. You should be provided with enough information to make an informed choice and then you should pay for the drain on society for the results of your choice. Although as stated this should be done through tax as making people by directly for such care is a ridiculous concept. Are we going to make people pay for their healthcare because of the negative side effects of working too many hours in a day? It's the same thing it's a personal choice someone makes that will most likely result in hypertension and heart attack.

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  • 41. At 12:45pm on 19 Aug 2010, Flumonitor wrote:

    Let me pose a question.
    What if a recreational drug were developed that was almost entirely safe (there will always be rare exceptions, and any substance is toxic if taken in sufficient quantities, even water). Let us suppose this this 'high' is as safe as any substance could be, was short lived in its effects i.e unlikely to be dangerous for driving or other activities, and non-addictive in a physiological sense. Would we allow this to be legally sold (after considerable safety testing etc) or would we ban it?

    Please consider this for a moment - are we objecting to the idea of using any substance to create a temproarily euphoric or happy state, or are we against all drugs because some cause such terrible addiction and feed crime, and we as a society feel that the idea of articifical enhancement of enjoyment should be banned outright, regardless of the harms it may or may not cause.

    I think the latter is true, and if we are really going to take this stance, we should ban all alcohol. If we are instead saying that moderate alcohol consumption within safe limits can be acceptable, why are we not applying similar rules to some drugs?

    Our society is currently driven to mark any chemical substance that alters mood or perception on a recreational basis as illegal - not necessarily because it may be harmful or adddictive, but because it produces mind altering effects, or heaven forbid it may be enjoyable.

    However, consider for a moment that my hypothetical example above were developed by governments or pharmaceutical companies, that met safety requirements with necessary warnings and prohibitions agaisnt excess use (as for alcohol) and it was possible to buy such items legally. Would individuals - young or old - seek out illicit substances such as cocaine etc or would they go for the easy (and legal) option? I would suggest they would go for the easy option, if the legal high was good and cheap enough.

    We cannot disinvent drugs, and as life gets harder in many regards for our younger generations, large sectors of our populationa will continue to seek out 'highs', and for as long as this is the case, there are drug cartels who will work to supply such items - except that they are less concerned about the effects. Dont imagine for a second that the war on drugs ever does anything to dent availability. Just look at the trend of street prices that are reported for cocaine, speed, ecstacy over recent years. They have not even risen with inflation - quite the contrary. Prices have fallen.

    As fast as drugs like Meow meow are made illegal, there are a host of alternatives in the queue to take their place, and the desire of the masses to use alcolhol or any other substance to forget their troubles and seek refuge in an alterante reality, however temporary, will not go anywhere or dissapate.

    Heroin addicts should be treated as patients, but you cannot make Heroin legal and give tacit suggestion that it is not harmful. Dealers should be sent to jail, users should be sent to rehab. The same goes for Cocaine etc.

    However, as a longer term alternative, western society needs to develop a less harmful alternative, which it legalises, sells and controls - and uses the proceeds to tackle the addiction problems of the heavy drugs like heroin and cocaine in all its forms? Increase penalties for large scale suppliers and dealers, but distinguish these penalties from the victims and users. Buy the opium crops form countries such as afghanistan, and convert it to morphine for medicinal use - there are plenty of countries around the world so poor that they cannot afford such drugs, and yet probably have greatest legitimate need.

    Ecstasy was originally developed as a licenced pharmaceutical drug for use in psychiatiric counselling, and so I would suggest that it is not beyond feasability to achieve the goal of developing an acceptable, really legal high, and starve the cocaine and heroin markets, and most importantly the cartels of funds and money.

    This idea might not be the ultimate answer, but its the best idea I have at this time after years of considering the issues. Outright blanket prohigbition will not work, can not work, and and our wars on drugs are merely serving to radicalise muslim and other poor producer populations and put money in the hands of terrorist organisations like the Taliban.

    We need to think radically if we are to beat the problems.

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  • 42. At 1:04pm on 19 Aug 2010, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:

    "Decriminalisation has been flatly rejected by the Home Office which points to the immense harm caused by heroin, cocaine and cannabis."

    The Home Office really couldn't miss the point any more if they tried.

    Yes, there is immense harm caused by heroin and cocaine (not so sure about cannabis, but that's a discussion for another day). But here's the thing: that immense harm is happening right now, when those drugs are banned. That doesn't strike me as a particularly good argument for sticking with the status quo.

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  • 43. At 5:38pm on 19 Aug 2010, Cobalt Chicken wrote:


    Bobmit

    > The largest cost of illegal drugs is the criminal offending by users to fund their
    >habit. That will not change, but many more users are likely to try drugs once they
    >are perceived to be 'non criminal'.

    On the face of it decriminalisation is a poor compromise and the essential thing is to provide a legal, safe supply at normal pharmaceutical prices. And yet the experience of the Netherlands, and now Portugal is that even decriminalisation has a very considerable positive effect, and that, much to everyone's surprise, consumption actually falls.

    I guess what it does do is to change the balance of power between user and supplier so that a user that receives bad quality drugs is in a position to complain about it. In fact that market forces start to operate properly.

    Also, because the user isn't doing anything criminal they can use decent gear, clean needles and so on.

    But as I say to really tackle the problem a clean, legal supply at sensible prices needs to be established and the criminals driven out of the supply chain completely. Then we can actually control the supply of drugs. We can keep them away from minors.

    Incidentally I've been involved in many on-line discussions on the issue and this is probably the first one with significant numbers of posters in favour of prohibition. Generally there seems to be very little support for prohibition on the net.

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  • 44. At 5:53pm on 19 Aug 2010, Cobalt Chicken wrote:

    >Heroin addicts should be treated as patients, but you cannot make Heroin legal and
    >give tacit suggestion that it is not harmful.

    Actually what you have to do it to break down the insane habit of thought that if follows logically from something being harmful to those that choose to do it that it should be illegal.

    Plenty of things are potentially harmful to the participants, and nobody even considers they should be illegal. Boxing, Rugby, Horse Riding, all these things and more carry risks of death of life-changing injury to the participants.

    Tobacco kills more people, even as a percentage of it's users, than any street drug, yet the only argument that has allowed it to be restricted is it's effects on people _other_ than those using it. And rightly so. The business of the law it to protect us from one another, not from ourselves.

    And, in any case, nobody who is likely to consider drugs takes the least notice of what the government says about them by work or deed, because so much of it has been rubbish.

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  • 45. At 09:21am on 20 Aug 2010, John Ellis wrote:

    Drug addict benefit withdrawal considered
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11033139

    if this goes through time to march on parliament, the crime and civil disorder this will cause will be incredible.

    We have serious problems now!!!! our streets will be littered with dead people, our hospitals full of stabbing victims, our psychiatric hospitals and prison bursting at the seems...

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  • 46. At 4:16pm on 20 Aug 2010, Peter Reynolds wrote:

    What we the people are now DEMANDING from our government is:

    1. An end to oppression of drug users (at least 10 million citizens)
    2. Removal from the criminal law of any offence for possession and/or social supply
    3. Fact and evidence-based policy, information and regulation

    The National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have both criticised the government for basing drugs policy on opinion rather than facts and evidence.

    Our cowardly politicians, who have refused to grasp this nettle for years, are directly responsible for the death, misery, degradation, and crime caused by drug laws. This is an international scandal of monstrous proportions.

    As Baroness McNally said in the House of Lords on 15th June 2010: "There is no more obvious waste than the £19 billion cost of the UK's war on drugs."

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/the-drugs-debate/

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  • 47. At 8:22pm on 20 Aug 2010, henrydumor wrote:

    the conventional war on drugs is lost, or economics or drugs 101

    note i do not do drugs or support their use
    i am only interested in less deaths from conflicts and less taxes on the average individual

    facts
    - there are more drugs consumed now in the usa and uk than at the time of the lauch of the war by nixon

    - there is more money to be made now than at any other time form distribution and sale

    - the institutions that are set up to interdict the drugs are now so large and the nr of poeple , their earnings and inbuilt momentum that they are now self perpetuating

    - the money earned and spent on the " good guys " is now so large and the lobbying so powerful for the purchases of equipment and services planes , guns ,salaries , prisons tc that it too is unstoppable

    - more than 1 m usa males are in the pokey for minor drugs offenses
    that makes x 50 k usd per year costs ( an profit for the prison companies )

    - at the beginning of the last century a popular fizzy drink had significant amounts of cocoa leaf ingredients in its secret formula

    - the nr of persons being killed in fratracidal battles within mexican border communities is now over 20000
    those communities are now destroyed

    - the demand is higher than ever according to certain socio economic levels
    higest level ( rich ) as a recreational device to counteract bordom and lack of innate life worth and to be within the "in "group

    lower levels ( poverty ) as an avenue of escape from terrible reality

    young people as a peer pressure device and to look cool and defy authority

    it is a business model based on ultra high margins ( even more than on beauty products )
    why are the margins so high? because of the risk

    how to destroy the business model ?

    by making the price nil

    how to do that ?
    by government sponsorship in the supply channel , thus destroying the margin element

    facit: see how the swiss and portugese succeeded

    result : less user deaths , economic crime to gather funs for the next fix , less hiv , less " scary people " (as alluded before by a mis informed reader ) on the streets

    however due to the above and the pressure of so called middle american values it will never happen

    being that it will never stop, i might advise you tongue in cheek that you invest in prison companies as it is surely the world best growth industry and their customer has an infinite amount of money to pay the bills , its one sure way to make the best out of a horrible situation

    hd

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  • 48. At 08:06am on 23 Aug 2010, Flumonitor wrote:

    Just for clarity. There is often confusion amongst individuals involved in debates on drugs over terminology between decriminalisation and legalisation.

    At present, individuals caught in possession of drugs may be prosecuted (this does not always happen when the amounts are small - often individuals are let off with warnings) and sent to prison. Individuals caught with a higher volume of drugs than what is considered to be the 'acceptable' level of possession for personal use are then prosecuted for intent to supply and/or dealing in drugs, with longer jail terms. The defining point is the quantity they get caught with.
    The alternate options are 1)Legalisation. Legalisation would create an 'open' market for drugs where standards could be enforced, but it would not be illegal to buy, use or trade them.
    2. Decriminalisation: Decriminalisation would simply (as at present in the legal system) set amounts of drugs that are deemed as 'personal use', and if a person were caught they would not be prosecuted and sent to jail as at present, but (hopefully if this avenue were followed) could be referred to rehabilitation. Rehabilitation may involve providing drugs in a controlled manner to get someone weaned off them slowly - rapid cessation of some addictive drugs can be highly dangerous, in terms of physiological shock so it has to be managed and treated. Dealing volumes would still remain illegal, and an imprisonable offence.

    I personally am in favour of decriminalisation of use of all drugs, with the caveat that anyone caught dealing (apart from rehabilitation centre supplies where appropriate) should incur punitive sentances. However, this model alone cannot work without there being a legal, and regulated supply of whatever chemical was deemed sufficiently 'safe' for general use, as we will never, ever, be able to address the core reasons of why indivudals take them recreationally. As I have been told by people who have admitted to recreational use of the softer drugs (in terms of effect), basically its 'fun' and for the vast majority, not something that gives rise to harm or addiction. However, the use of drugs like crack cocaine and heroin do give rise to a high level of addiction, and it is these drugs that fuel the majority of drug related crime.

    In my opinion, if a court is able to pose a rehab order on users of such drugs instead of jailing them, it would help vastly. Keep them illegal. But maybe we need to look at dong as Prof Nutt suggested, and if we dont like the idea of legalisation of any of the currently used recreational drugs and controlling supplies, then we need to come up with a 'healthy' alterantive or we will forever fighting a war that we can never win, of at least for as long as society is rich enough that individuals have funds to spare beyond spending on basic survival.

    The only alternative that I see is that we develop current technologies (which pretty much already exist) to detect illegal drugs from the mere act of placing a hand on a scanner, and societies accept a 'Gattaca' sytle existence where our blood and sweat samples are checked at numerous points as we go about daily lives - eg at railway stations. We would also have to have a world where having an illegal substance in your blood was deemed as possession. You would then make it very difficult for idnividuals to take drugs without getting caught. I could easily see a world where it being illegal to let your alcohol levels be raised above a certain point and where a shop, bar or restaurant could not sell you any without first conducting such a check, and in this case limited alcohol supply becomes the 'recreational drug' I have proposed.

    I dont know about anyone else, but I for one do not wish to see or live in such a police state or under such an authoratarian system, where life is so regulated and we are all inmates of a 'nanny' state trying to save us from ourselves. If this level of intrusion became acceptable, then there would be many other such controls enforced in day to day life.

    So, in my opnion, as a society, we need to choose between a world where there could be nearly 100% detection and therefore control, or a world where a 'legal high' or some sort is deemed acceptable and sale and supply is strictly controlled, and we keep our world from marching ever closer into that of 'Big Grother'. We are already far too close to that place already.

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  • 49. At 08:12am on 23 Aug 2010, Flumonitor wrote:

    Any chance of a spellchecker for comments? Sorry everyone.

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  • 50. At 08:50am on 23 Aug 2010, Robin Bate wrote:

    i take drugs, alcohol and nicotine, to break the monotony i find myself in. I would imagine it is the same for all drug users - caffine included. Criminality gets strong in illegal drug world, so why does Government think strong crime is better than legal access to drugs. If you want to help an addict you would have to help ween them off their adversion to sobriety. ciao Rx

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  • 51. At 09:06am on 23 Aug 2010, Flumonitor wrote:

    One other thought has occurred to me as a follow on to post 48, which I will post now in case Fergus decides to throw another debate out there.

    Many companies already conduct random drug testing of employees, especially where individuals are responsible for other's lives eg train drivers, pilots, army personnel and so on. How long will it be before these companies use technology to test their staff every week, month or every day as they 'clock in' for work? Not long I would suggest.

    If we decriminalised and even legalised some drugs, companies would still have policies of non-tolerance, and they, rather than the state would be likely to take up such daily testing regimens.

    The private market would drive enforcement and drug use limitation - not legislation by the state; a preferable scenario to my mind. It would also send out more powerful messages to aspiring and ambitious young adults than any imposition of national law ever could.

    However, another interesting question would be how employment law would then handle such situations, sackings etc.

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  • 52. At 09:56am on 23 Aug 2010, jr4412 wrote:

    Flumonitor #48.

    "The only alternative that I see is ... societies accept a 'Gattaca' sytle existence where our blood and sweat samples are checked at numerous points as we go about daily lives.."

    crickey. too high a price to pay, IMO.

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  • 53. At 1:46pm on 23 Aug 2010, tmd1 wrote:

    The Taliban get 70% of their funding from illegal drug growing & traficking. If this so called 'war on terror' was really a war on terror, they'd atleast decriminalise drugs.

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  • 54. At 4:24pm on 23 Aug 2010, Richard wrote:

    Decriminalising drugs is the only way forward. We are simply wasting an enormous amount of money creating an illegal industry in this area which is worse for all concerned.

    We should immediately:

    1. Stop arresting people for the use of drugs.
    2. Spend the money we save (a fortune) on education targeting the vulnerable on the impact of drugs.
    3. Make drugs available (through an authorised distribution scheme) at sensible prices -not easy to get -but ultimately available. -This will reduce crime massively. In other words take control of the industry making criminals millions of pounds every year and ensure that the proceeds of this industry go to reducing it rather than promoting it(which is what happens now).
    4. Spend some of the money saved from this process on making drug taking socially unacceptable -rather than legally unacceptable. This will reduce the taking of drugs far more than any legislation can ever do.

    It appears to me that these common sense steps will :

    a) reduce overall levels of drug use.
    b) dramatically reduce the criminal element involved.
    c) increase safety levels for takers (as drugs now come from Authorised sources).
    d) deliver more control over the whole issue to society (since now it is opened up to scrutiny in a way never before available).

    I am not saying this is a risk free strategy. But the truth is right now we (along with every other nation) is losing this battle -feeding criminality and allowing this curse on society to rage uncontrolled.

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  • 55. At 12:58pm on 24 Aug 2010, NotTelling wrote:

    Look at the situation that resulted from the war on drugs in the USA; citizens end up being treated like a farmer treats his animals:

    http://youareproperty.blogspot.com/2010/06/we-are-exempt-from-your-morality.html

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  • 56. At 8:10pm on 27 Aug 2010, Peter wrote:

    The example of The Prohibition of Alcohol in the USA in the 1930s led to a whole crime network to support the demand for booze.It didn't work then and the war on Drugs is not working now.It is not without risks and challenges but the decriminalisation of Drugs can't be much worse than what we have now.

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  • 57. At 10:44pm on 28 Aug 2010, Icebloo wrote:

    Too many jobs such as police, solicitors, judges, prison staff etc all rely on the drug trade so the government has no incentive to decriminalise it. I just wish they would be honest about it but as usual our elected officials say one thing publicly but privately they have a very different view.

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  • 58. At 02:12am on 29 Aug 2010, lar121 wrote:

    OK, so some drugs are very harmful in the way you take them and the addiction etc, but why oh why is ecstasy illegal?

    We have scientists independently concurring that ecstasy is not dangerous enough to be illegal. Professor Knutt rates its danger well below alcohol.

    Please watch this video based on science not politics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR3gIuWYnQo

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  • 59. At 11:42pm on 04 Sep 2010, Alex the Hat wrote:

    Yadda yadda yadda.Everyone on this site seems to be terrified of EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Just because I enjoy going to a pub that sells real ale does NOT make me an ADDICT,I just like to sample different brews with their different blends of hops and hopefully make a few new friendships,even if they only last for a few hours.
    Using Alcohol and Tobacco as the getgo for your diatribes against high level drugs is self defeating,what is needed is a serious scientific study of the Pros and Cons of their use.
    Let's take a f'rinstance;how many people have died due to Cannabis use compared to the number of people who have died on our roads?
    With your scaremongering correspondants in control we should ban all motor vehicles and legalize Cannabis(these are the scientific numbers after all)

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  • 60. At 4:53pm on 08 Sep 2010, oliver stieber wrote:

    SSRI's aka hallucinogens are now being shown to cause depression in long term use and have dire withdrawal.
    Benzios, mother's little helper, until she tries to get off the stuff.
    Neuroleptics, known to cause drug addiction.
    Food, Biggest killer in the country, BBC has a story about obesity ops on it's front page. Rehab for food addicts?
    Air, full of hormone like chemicals from car exhausts, know to cause genital defects in males. try holding your breath for a while, don't worry if you pass out you won't die. Bet you can't, your addicted to the stuff.

    on the other hand,
    Psylocibin. (Magic Mushrooms), helping cancer patients enjoy their remaining days.
    Ketamine, (apparently this is tasteless, looks like someone got sugar instead!), many many benefits such as preventing and curing chronic long term pain such as physical pain, anxiety, depression etc... also shown at helping with addiction, making opiates work below normal therapeutic levels, stopping opiates from raising dopamine levels.
    Amphetamines, seriously help out people with impulse and concentration problems. (also with eating problems!!) Prevent people turning to so called drugs and other crimes.
    THC. Heavy use linked to development of psychotic illness in later life. Significant increase in heavy use has not related to any increase in psychotic illness. Girls like pink, a boy liking pink does not turn them into a girl.
    The list goes on......

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  • 61. At 5:24pm on 08 Sep 2010, oliver stieber wrote:

    @ Alex the Hat
    Playing the lottery, horse riding, crossing the road, breathing, eating, smoking, going to the pub and getting beaten up. Psychological effects of social isolation due to your self medication for real problems you have, with apparently no know cure (apart from the one your taking!).
    The core metabolite of heroin is morphine, the same stuff that codine (neur??? plus) for instance, and that morphine drip they put you on in hospital, or kaolin and morphine that you can buy in the shops. It was marketed by a company now involved in GM as a none-addictive form of opium/morphine.
    Pharama companies treat negative results as trade secrets.

    Most people have no problems getting of a morphine drip, just like most people coming back from Vietnam had no problems getting off of heroin.

    Most 'drugs' are legal, just subject to prohibition and via 'gate keepers' (aka drug dealers) some licensed and some black market.

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  • 62. At 3:01pm on 11 Sep 2010, Flumonitor wrote:

    The question asked was 'would decriminalising drugs work?'. In my opinion, and reading the opinions of others in this debate, I think that the answer that comes across loud and clear is that decriminalisation is the only course forwards, but with caveats as far as I am concerned. Prohibition doesnt work and has severely damaging consequences, not just here in the UK, but abroad where drugs money fuels cartels, crime and terrorism on a massice scale. In the UK our prisons are full of users, and a different approach is called for as prison does not appear to solve the underlying problems - and a poorly enforced law (and it is) just leads to younger generations who learn that they can break it with little fear of getting caught. When recreational users do not end up as addicts (as the very vast majority do not) and they have no direct experience of any of the alarmist scenarios painted in the media, and just have a good time, all the current system does is teach them a disregard for the rule of law as a whole, and a loss of respect or faith in anything anyone in authority says.

    Decriminalisation is not legalisation - and it will be a question of education to make that point clear to the young, and to educate them as to the hazards, dangers and risks of usage. Additionally, any decriminalisation of any drugs has to go hand in hand with the provision of rehabilitation.

    Let us hope that society is sufficiently ready to empbrace this concept so that politicians become ready to 'bite the bullet', rather than worrying about their perception of populist opinion.

    A referendum on the subject could be very interesting, if such a thing were possible for a subject like this.

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  • 63. At 3:00pm on 03 Jan 2011, buylegaldrugs wrote:

    Well, puplic opinion is definately swaying towards legalisation. In the meantime visit [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

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  • 64. At 10:18pm on 25 May 2011, imanD wrote:

    its about time drugs were decriminalized i cant wait for the day when legalization is considered. the government and people have been lying about drugs for years saying that cannabis causes cancer when its been proven to actually prevent cancer that hallucinogenics like LSD are highly dangerous when they do nothing at all yes there are risks with drugs but the risks are not as bad as drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco plus its not the governments business to say what substances people can or cant have if you want to take drugs in the safety of your own home why not? your not hurting anyone and if you know the damage you are doing to yourself by doing drugs its your choice you can die crossing the road so who cares if sometimes drugs can kill its because of the substances the dealers mix it with that people do die, if drugs were legal then it would all be pure.rant over. LEGALIZE DRUGS. LEGALIZE MARIJUANA!

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  • 65. At 05:06am on 02 Jun 2011, wikiderm wrote:

    'Bout time.
    'Nuff said.
    Sooner the better.
    One of my secretaries' son just went to jail for stealing his best friends computer to sell to support his habit.
    Better to be giving him the junk free than involving cops and jails and friends and danger and judges and lawyers.
    What a horrible waste of money.

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