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Soca and coca

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Mark Easton | 08:58 UK time, Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Why did the former spook who heads the Serious Organised Crime Agency give me exclusive details of his organisation's apparent success in the fight against cocaine smugglers?

Sir Stephen Lander is a man who likes to operate in the shadows. When he moved from running MI5 to heading up Soca in April 2006, he told me that he had no interest in parading any achievements they might have in front of the cameras.

His aim was to reduce the harms associated with serious organised crime, particularly drug running, and there would be no flag-waving or grandstanding by his agents. Leave that to the police, he suggested, even if the real work behind an operation was down to his organisation's efforts.

"How will we know if you have done a good or a bad job?" I asked him. Sir Stephen explained that he was satisfied that Whitehall would hold him accountable.

Well, with a couple of months to go before he retirement from public life, it seems that the old spymaster has changed his tune.

Soca has had a troubled press. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have both been hostile - the Tories have hinted they might abolish the agency - while parts of the media, frustrated perhaps by its tight-lipped nature, have also started questioning the value of the organisation. Is it worth its £400m budget?

Sir Stephen and his sidekick Bill Hughes, a former police officer, have defended themselves vigorously. Mr Hughes sent a letter to The Times a year ago [45KB PDF] - furious at the suggestion that his agency was not up to the job.

But their problem has been in demonstrating success, not denying failure.

These are the "Strategic Imperatives" for Soca, proudly displayed in their annual report [756KB PDF]:

• to build knowledge and understanding of serious organised crime, the harm it causes, and of the effectiveness in tackling it;
• to increase the amount of criminal assets recovered and increase the proportion of cases in which the proceeds of crime are pursued;
• to increase the risk to serious organised criminals operating against the UK, through traditional means and by innovation within the law;
• to collaborate with partners, join up domestic and international efforts to reduce harm and provide high quality support to partners; and as appropriate seek theirs in return; and
• to build capacity and capability to make a difference.

With the exception of the amount of criminal assets recovered, these demands are almost impossible to quantify: knowledge building, collaboration, innovation, making a difference.

Harm-reduction is a noble aim, but without hard data measuring progress, those paying the bills need the warm feeling that comes from supportive headlines. Such coverage has been largely absent.

So what do we make of today's story, which links an apparent rise in the wholesale price of cocaine and a slump in quality in on the streets with Soca's international activities?

Something is clearly happening in the cocaine market. Organisations as diverse as the Forensic Science Service and Drugscope concur that purity levels have fallen markedly in recent months while street prices remain stable.

Evidence on the price of wholesale cocaine is harder to come by, but there is some corroboration for Soca's claim from authorities in Spain and Belgium. The agency accepts that some of the 25% increase is a factor of the weakness of the pound - the cocaine market is measured in dollars - but argue that the price increases have been seen "across Europe" and therefore reflect more than simply international exchange rate variations.

The figures they quote on British prices will also be used by expert witnesses in court cases, where they may be challenged.

The agency has had documented successes, along with international partners, in South America, the Caribbean and West Africa. An operation in Sierra Leone which saw $200m-worth of high quality cocaine go up in smoke a couple of weeks ago was important because, temporarily at least, it closed off an air-bridge across the Atlantic.

Smugglers had loaded up light aircraft with cocaine but also with aviation fuel so they could replenish their tanks while airborne.

The question is whether all this activity and disruption is sustainable.

There are those who think that the supply-side strategy is doomed, like Danny Kushlick from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which wants all drugs legalised and regulated.

"Over the long term, all the reports have shown that the price of illegal drugs has dropped and that the purity has increased", he points out. "You can see blips where you have raised the price because of some enforcement activity, but that has never worked in the long term."

Last month, a report [192KB PDF] from the human rights group Washington Office on Latin America claimed that new data revealed by President Obama's administration contradicted their predecessors' claims that supply disruptions had achieved unprecedented cocaine shortages in the United States.

lowering_expectations.png

To be fair to Soca, it accepts that impact on the supply side is going to be "cyclical". The focus is now on "anticipating the likely changes in cocaine traffickers' tactics".

But perhaps something has changed permanently here. Soca may have decided that, whatever you do on the war on drugs, you cannot win the vital public relations battle by operating from the shadows.

Comments

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  • 1. At 10:14am on 12 May 2009, Louisewebster73 wrote:

    It seems that in this time of great resession, spending £400 million on this organisation is very questionable - especially if you think about how much money the government would make if it legalised drugs in th UK. The benefits for doing this would be so great that it is just idiotic to carry down this sorry route of prohibition on drugs in the UK. Tax them and make hundreds of millions, save money from not having to input millions of tax payers money into organisation such as SOCA. Reduce crime ten fold, both organised and none and completely control what goes into these drugs and protect those people who will carry on taking drugs whether they are legal or not. If SOCA thinks it is a success to have reduced the purity of cocaine and increased the amount of harmful chemicals used as cutting agents, then this is a totally irresponsible action. It is so glaringly obvious what is the right thing to do, yet politicians refuse to see it - or are just too scared of change.
    Legalise drugs - make them saver for users, cut crime, cut spending and make money......what part of this doesn't make sense?

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  • 2. At 10:15am on 12 May 2009, mrtorch2009 wrote:

    So the police have managed to force drug dealers to start cutting their supply of cocaine with more dangerous chemicals like "cancer-causing drug phenacetin, cockroach insecticide and pet worming powder," without increasing the street price or reducing demand. Job well done. I guess the Government can afford the increase of admissions to the ER.

    When will they learn that while there is demand for drugs there will always be supply? Complete and utter waste of money in trying to stop people from smuggling & selling drugs. Education and treatment is the only way of reducing drug use.

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  • 3. At 10:21am on 12 May 2009, scrapperscrapper wrote:

    "Soca has released its internal estimates of wholesale cocaine prices. Two years ago, the highest quality blocks typically cost £35,000...But in the first few months of this year the price, according to Soca, has hit a record level; more than £45,000 per kilo"

    Well, it's taken me two minutes to check the exchange rate change... In May 2007, the US dollar traded at 0.505 to the pound, so that £35,000 kilo was worth $69,300. Today, the dollar is trading at 0.656, so a £45,000 kilo is now worth $68,600.

    Great work SOCA. Despite RPI inflation of 3% or so after the past two years, the wholesale price of cocaine has actually declined...

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  • 4. At 10:47am on 12 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Nice story or is it?
    yes they removed a small bit of cocaine from the world at a cost to the main supply.
    What is the UK cost of this in health and crime? will they answer that while they blow thier own horns?

    Will they cost in the a rise in crime to pay for cocaine that is weaker and so more is required?
    Will they cost in the impurities that will cause harm to the users health as cuts are made to the supply so the dealers have the same income?

    What a waste of money.

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  • 5. At 10:57am on 12 May 2009, pandatank wrote:

    I love the way Drug Enforcement Agencies quote the (estimated) street value of the drugs they confiscate as their worth. At least by looking at the effects on the wholesale price, they're actually looking at the costs to Organised Crime of their efforts. I agree with post #1. Perhaps given the current public opinion of MPs "moral bankruptcy", it may be an opportune time to revisit the whole "misuse of drugs" question and do what everyone, (except MPs) know is the right thing. Let's have sensible drug laws and give the police back the moral authority that prohibition took from them!

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  • 6. At 11:14am on 12 May 2009, Jacques Cartier wrote:

    Increasing the price of coke is not a great idea. It does for drugs suppliers what higher oil prices does for Shell - they make lot's more money.

    So let's take the War on Drugs to the true enemy - the prohibitionists who are making careers while they waste our tax money.

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  • 7. At 11:20am on 12 May 2009, wrighrp wrote:

    If SOCA are using the price of cocaine as an indicator of "success", they ought to correct it for the falling pound!

    Since cocaine is imported and probably priced in dollars or euros on the "world market", the price rise in the UK is just because the producers are maintaining their margins (like Sony did recently with their TVs).

    If you take this into account, the price has actually fallen! What sort of success is that then?

    Cheers

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  • 8. At 11:34am on 12 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    The book McMafia, written by ex-BBC correspondent Misha Glenny, offers an interesting analysis of the international drugs trade and how it responds to law enforcement pressure. The confidential British intelligence report produced for Tony Blair (which he then tried to suppress) (McMafia p.263) includes such gems as:

    * profit margins for drug traffickers are similar to designer goods at 26% to 58%, and hence highly profitable
    * "Western government interventions have tended to have a short-lived or negligible impact on retails prices downstream"
    * "Despite seizures, real prices for heroin and cocaine in the UK have halved over the last ten years"
    * Despite the government/press trumpeting every large seizure, 85% of cocaine is not seized, 90% of heroin gets through, and >99% of crack slips through the net.

    So, law enforcement in this area is 85%-99% ineffective depending on the drug, and yet the "war on drugs" costs this country billions in both outlay and, potentially, lost tax revenue, whilst at the same time leaving any form of market regulation in the hands of criminals with guns and a strong profit motive.

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  • 9. At 11:34am on 12 May 2009, grimble wrote:

    It's not clear where or under what circumstances the photo accompanying today's News story by Mark was taken (the BBC sometimes seems a hopelessly un-visual organisation, fixated on words with little attention paid to pictures).

    However since the flags shown on the blocks of cocaine aren't an accurate representation of the Union Jack one would hope they weren't drawn up by SOCA, as it would be worrying to have people protecting the country who don't even know what the country's flag looks like!

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  • 10. At 11:41am on 12 May 2009, mikedickety wrote:

    Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the arguments congratulations to Mark Easton for putting together such a detailed and well researched story, which must have taken a considerable time to prepare.

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  • 11. At 11:43am on 12 May 2009, AdamWood82 wrote:

    The comments made earlier about legalising drugs is just wholesale lunacy. The reason for specific drugs being made illegal is for there negative ill health effects and social damage, not only in the short term, but also the long. If you have any real experience of drug addicts, and the butterfly effect they have had on friends, family, communities, the health and justice system, then such comments would not have been said so easily. I was once told, "Being an addict is a full time job", for its an constant stuck in a rut cycle.
    An imaginary case summary:- Drugs are legalised. Will they be cheaper ? no, the cost would probably remain the same, if not more expensive due to tax and regulated production costs. So the drugs cost about the same, they will be just as addictive. They are legalised, so they will be more accessible to the public. As they are more accessible more people would be enticed due to changing perceptions. What do we have now, more people taking drugs, who would still most likely commit crime to pay for them. You would have more people draining resources on drugs intervention programs, the inundated health system and through the courts. Cut crime, how? cut spending, how? the only difference is you would be robbing someone of their mobile phone, to pay for a fix from the government. Who (government)would have more tax income yes, but more public sector spending, at the cost of what benefit, a possible social collapse ?
    While were at it, why dont we legalise prostitution..

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  • 12. At 11:46am on 12 May 2009, Richard1634 wrote:

    Extreme libertarians like Milton Friedman have always argued that drugs should be legalised because there is a supply and a demand and therefore the two should be allowed me meet to create trade. You can make the same case for sex trafficking, slavery, child pornography, DDT, Anthrax. There's a demand for them all, one way or another, but does that mean we should legalise anything for which there is demand? Surely there is more to the debate than simply fulfilling demand and saving money?

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  • 13. At 11:54am on 12 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

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

  • 14. At 12:13pm on 12 May 2009, alirennie wrote:

    It's just beyond belief that any agency could consider this a victory. From personal experience (Im 22) I know the prevalence of cocaine use among many young people in this country and decreasing purity and increasing toxicity is detriment to both the financial and physical wellbeing of my peers. When are politicians going to grow up and understand that not only are people always going to do drugs but the billions of dollars/pounds spent on enforcement of prohibition could be far better spent on honest education and support. It amazes me how ignorant a great deal of the politicians seem to be in regards to drugs with many seemingly still stuck to the notion that one snort = drug addict. Though I am by no means trying to downplay the dangers of the drug, we must also recognize that a sizeable majority of people who use cocaine in this country are under the age of 25 and are recreational user. The actions of SOCA will only serve to further persecute controlled users and harm what is lets face it is a hugely vulnerable age group. Let's get smart people and get this stuff out of the hands of people who only care about the hustle and on to the shelves of pharmacies, only then can we control consumption and reduce the health risks associated with cocaine.

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  • 15. At 12:16pm on 12 May 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    In reply to AdamWood82 and Richard1634 - I lost a nephew (28yrs old) a couple of years ago to heroin overdose, however, I would argue that all drugs should be legalised. The money wasted on trying to stop the illegal drug trade would be better spent on education and helping people who are addicted to drugs get cleaned up. The money in tax generated by legalising drugs would help the economy and fewer people would die from taking tainted drugs. Let's face it, the drug dealers just want to make money, they don't care who dies. People will always take drugs. Haven't we learnt the lesson of prohibition in America! You cannot equate legalising drugs to sex trafficking, slavery or child pornography, that is flawed thinking.

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  • 16. At 12:29pm on 12 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    The comments made in support of prohibition miss one obvious point: alcohol is one of the most dangerous and most addictive drugs, causes long-term physical and mental health issues (including dementia), and it is already available legally at only £7 for 40% ABV in our nation's supermarkets.

    To paraphrase a statement made above: "An imaginary case summary:- Alcoholic drinks are legalised. Will they be cheaper ? no, the cost would probably remain the same, if not more expensive due to tax and regulated production costs. So the alcoholic drinks cost about the same, they will be just as addictive. They are legalised, so they will be more accessible to the public. As they are more accessible more people would be enticed due to changing perceptions. What do we have now, more people consuming alcoholic drinks, who would still most likely commit crime to pay for them. You would have more people draining resources on alcoholic intervention programs, the inundated health system and through the courts. Cut crime, how? cut spending, how? the only difference is you would be robbing someone of their mobile phone, to pay for a fix from the government. Who (government)would have more tax income yes, but more public sector spending, at the cost of what benefit, a possible social collapse ?"

    And to the final question, "While were at it, why dont we legalise prostitution.."? Probably because prostitution is already legal - soliciting is illegal, not prostitution. But to flip the question around - one of my ex-colleagues in the financial world now works as an escort, she is intelligent, is happy with her job, and earns £800-£1000 a day from her own flat. Why should a successful young female entrepreneur like her be penalised, or even thrown in jail, because of her choice of vocation, which does no harm to anyone else?

    Trafficking, slavery, child pornography etc. violate fundamental human rights and should therefore be illegal. The consumption of alcohol and other drugs do not violate fundamental human rights. There is a clear moral difference, and attempting to muddy the water between them does not make a good argument.

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  • 17. At 12:42pm on 12 May 2009, brklynusa wrote:

    Just remember all you critics of so called "Drug takers", Alcohol and Cigarettes are fsr more dangerous than all other drugs combined. Oh yeah, I forgot they are not drugs now, are they? This hypocrisy needs to end! All Drugs need to be made legal or all illegal. Fair ir fair!

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  • 18. At 12:43pm on 12 May 2009, Louisewebster73 wrote:

    In response to 11.

    Just because one friend is addicted to a drug does not mean all of their other friends will do so in turn - and I can personally back this up!

    Prohibition has not worked in the slightest, so lets try this instead. If you look back to when America prohibited alcohol it was a complete dissaster. Organised crime rose and even more people were drinking alcohol than when it was legal to do so. SO they changed the law back! Alcohol is no less dangerous than other drugs and has prooved the point that taxing a drug, like tabbaco - is incredibly important to governments in terms of making money! But does anyone actually look at this little bit of history and learn from it - no!

    And while we're at it - yes we should legalise prostitution. Bring back brothels run by women and police them. This will get rid of pimps, get women and men off the streets and keep them safe. People will do it anyway, might as well make it as safe for these vulnerable people as we can.

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  • 19. At 1:12pm on 12 May 2009, AdamWood82 wrote:

    neebols456, I can only imagine what it feels like to loose someone needlessly. Drugs are being cut with a variety of chemicals, which will cause harm to the human body. There is a probabilty that people will die from that, however more people die from mixing drugs together. Cocaine/heroin, uppers and downer, speedballing. Legalising drugs would not stop people being experimenting with different drug mixes. Eventually the body developes a tolerance to the drug, meaning you'l need to take higher doses to get that fix, with an increase likelyhood of overdosing.
    If you use alcohol as an example, the difference with drugs would be minimal. All across the country alcohol binge drinking can be seen, and is viewed as a major concern and social issue. Would you add another problem just as harmful? if not more so..
    Its interesting to see from those who have posted on this blog for legalising drugs, looking at there profile have quite openly admitted on other posts, possessing or taking illegal substances. Should you listen to views from people who dont follow societies rules and break the law..

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  • 20. At 1:37pm on 12 May 2009, Euforiater wrote:

    "Its interesting to see from those who have posted on this blog for legalising drugs, looking at there profile have quite openly admitted on other posts, possessing or taking illegal substances. Should you listen to views from people who dont follow societies rules and break the law.."

    - Yes you should because they're the ones who know what they're talking about. And I think in this case they have broken the law because "society" (i.e. the ones with the big fat ever-growing budget taken from YOUR taxes) have come up with STUPID laws. Mark is simply pointing this out and bypassing the newspaper censors. It's called free speech, and better people than you or I had to campaign long and hard for the privilege.

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  • 21. At 1:39pm on 12 May 2009, RangerWillRobinson wrote:

    Now, I'm no economist but let me get this right - purity is down, prices have remained stable and consumption remains unchanged. This surely adds up to one thing only - increased profits for dealers at all levels.

    Hardly good value for our £400M. Well done SOCA and the reactionary,"Victorian-values"-obsessed, Middle England-chasing expenses-hogs who've disenfranchised this nation with their collusive, centrist agenda.

    Anyone else praying for an extinction-level event?

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  • 22. At 1:57pm on 12 May 2009, DelaneyVonTrap wrote:

    It appears that even when the war on drugs is being won it is still being lost. The only consequence of reducing the amount of cocaine in circulation has been to increase the likelihood of people being sold an even more poisonous substances.

    Drug prohibition simply does not work. It only serves to fuel the black market criminal organisations and create unsafe products.

    Legalisation has many downsides but it is certainly the lesser of two evils.

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  • 23. At 1:59pm on 12 May 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    In response to Adamwood82 - it feels absolutely awful to lose a family member to drugs, that is why i wish we could have a measured and intelligent debate about legalisation. Prohibition does nothing to address the underlying issues surrounding the taking of drugs. When left in the hands of criminals it is more likely that young people will die. We are wasting money while people die taking tainted drugs. As for following society's rules or breaking society's rules - not all rules are good rules. All i know is that prohibition in respect of drugs (or alcohol/tobacco) does not work and never will. People will always do things that are not particularly good for them.

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  • 24. At 2:19pm on 12 May 2009, mikedickety wrote:

    I think Mark's instincts are right on this one. Any law enforcement agency operating in the drugs world should be aware of the appropriateness to explain it's actions to anyone who may take a legitimate interest, be that a journalist, an opposition politician, or indeed any of the rest of us! Drug gangs, besides being in the business of supply, will also always be looking at ways, and thinking up schemes, to try and make our law enforcers less effective.

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  • 25. At 2:30pm on 12 May 2009, shasarak wrote:

    In response to #11: Adam, I'm afraid your conclusions are based on woefully inaccurate data. Producing and supplying drugs illegally is FANTASTICALLY expensive comparecd to doing so legally. I don't have the figures for cocaine to hand, but consider heroin as an example: a gram of street heroin costs about £40, and is probably only 30-40% pure. A gram of pharmaceutical grade diamorphine (medical heroin) costs the NHS less than £1, and is close to 100% pure. Even when you allow for the retail/wholesale mark-up and a fair amount of tax, legal drugs will cost less than a tenth of their illegal equivalent.
    Put it this way: alcohol is very heavily taxed in this country, but when was the last time someone approached you on a street-corner at night and offered to sell you illegal beer? It simply doesn't happen, because manufacturing and distributing illegal alcohol is so expensive that it simply can't compete with the legal stuff. The last time anyone could make a profit from illegal alcohol was, of course, during prohibition.
    That huge difference in price between legal and illegal drugs invalidates every single one of your objections. If a day's supply of heroin or cocaine costs less than a couple of cans of lager, then being an addict is no longer (as you put it) a full time job. Addicts would no longer have any need to resort to crime to pay for their drugs. They would no longer experience the social exclusion that results from spending your whole time trying to raise (illegal) funds. The drugs themselves would be far less harmful because there would be no damaging impurities. In short, all of the negative effects that you perceive to be caused by drugs are actually only caused by ILLEGAL drugs.
    In addition, prohibition simply doesn't work. If it did, there might be some point to it; but in the real world anybody who wants to take heroin or cocaine in this country takes it. I dare say there would be a small, short-term increase in the number of people taking these drugs if they were legalised - some people would be curious - but in the longer term I doubt legalisation would have much impact on the numbers.

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  • 26. At 3:35pm on 12 May 2009, FedupwithGovt wrote:

    I wholeheartedly agree with #25 shasaraks post. I wish we could have more debate with better informed people about the legalisation of drugs. While we skirt around the issue, listening to handwringing hysteric, little britain attitudes young people will continue to die needlessly, crimes will be committed, and drug barons get richer. Please, people, if you want to comment on drugs, get your facts right first.

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  • 27. At 4:00pm on 12 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Putting impurities in cocaine shipments doesn't make good business sense.
    Why would drug dealers put off their loyal customer base? Maybe it's a disinformation campaign to scare off would be buyers or to make even more profit when the pure version is available? In any case, we're constantly being manipulated by government disinformation. Maybe if people got off drugs they'd sober up and figure out that their rights are slowly being dissipated. When people remain addicted they lose their insight and critical perception. That's exactly what your government wants.

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  • 28. At 4:02pm on 12 May 2009, Noblepatscot wrote:

    I worked in anti-narcotics for 40 years, getting out just in time to evade the inept SOCA. It is staffed by arrogant inadequates bent only on destroying the good work previously carried out by others. It strives to avoid reality and disappears up its own ego with circuitous intelligence reports and statistics. I was frustrated by the efforts of law enforcement and feel that there is only one way forward - education, education, education!

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  • 29. At 4:05pm on 12 May 2009, stanilic wrote:

    There are enough problems associated with alcohol consumption which is legal to question the asertion that matters will improve if the abuse of other substances was also legalised.

    It used to be possible to obtain opium legally in this country so why did it become illegal? Can anyone inform us on that?

    In my view the big question is why do people want to get smacked out of their heads anyway?

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  • 30. At 4:35pm on 12 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    "Should you listen to views from people who dont follow societies rules and break the law.."? AdamWood82

    Should you listen to Nelson Mandela? Malcolm X? Oskar Schindler? The Suffragettes? Galileo Galilei? Harvey Milk? Jesus Christ?

    There are plenty of people who have gone against the rules of the masses, been jailed or killed for it, and who are today considered heroes for their actions.

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  • 31. At 4:53pm on 12 May 2009, shasarak wrote:

    In response to #29: No one debates that there are problems associated with alcohol in this country, but the question you need to ask is NOT "is alcohol harmful?" The question you need to ask is "would making alcohol completely illegal increase or reduce the amount of harm it causes?"

    We have a good model to answer that question: the Prohibition era in america. During Prohibition people did actually drink a bit less; if you look at the number of people dying from cirrhosis of the liver there is a year-on-year reduction throughout the period. But it's not a big reduction: most of the people who wanted to drink managed to find ways to do so.

    More importantly, if the number of deaths from cirrhosis is the only figure you look at then you rather miss the point. You also have to ask: how many people died during Prohibition because they were poisoned by the impurities in alcohol that was illegally brewed or distilled? How many people died because they were shot by Al Capone and his fellow boot-leggers?

    Similarly with currently illegal drugs: the question is not "are they harmful?" the question is "would they become more or less harmful if they were legalised?" Once you consider not just the reduction in damage to addicts' bodies but also in the damage done to the rest of society, it becomes very clear that legalisation (or, more accurately, regulation) is a better solution than prohibition. It is certainly not a perfect solution; but there isn't any perfect solution: all we can hope to do is find the least bad option. And regulation is a LOT less bad than prohibition (unless you're a drug dealer!)

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  • 32. At 5:41pm on 12 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    O.K. If drugs are legalized and controlled and distrubuted by the Mafia as they already are shouldn't the Mafia also then pick up the medical and social tab? They are profitting from an industry without having to pay for its deleterious affects to society. Let them pay for care homes for children, staff, education, summer camps, therapy and medical expenses for children whose lives are destroyed by their drug addicted parents. It's wrong that drug dealers make bizzillions while the taxpayer foots the bill. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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  • 33. At 5:56pm on 12 May 2009, stanilic wrote:

    Message 31

    The problem with regulation is that it never works properly. There is always someone who thinks the rules are for the others and not them.

    My argument is that all ingested or injected chemicals are potentially poisonous, so why do we do it? Let's focus on that.

    Also there are the social side-effects to addiction which still need to be considered in the proposition of full legalisation.

    There is no perceivable solution other then encouraging people to live more healthy lives and enjoy their environment. I do agree the latter is rather a challenge.

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  • 34. At 6:03pm on 12 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    All of your arguments for legalisation would make sense if the taxpayer weren't subidizing drug dealers but they do. You want your cake and eat it too but you don't want to pay the cost that society pays for your addiction. I would like to pay teachers, doctors, nurses, policemen, firemen, better wages. I'd like every child to have a brilliant education. I'd like everyone to live comfortably in their own home, free from drug crazed, paranoid murderers. I'd like every young person to fullfill their childhood dreams and for parents to reach their full potential. But people's incessant need to fuel their addictions makes this impossible. Stop heaping the costs of your addiction and irresponsibility on the taxpayer. If you want to legalize drugs do it but pay your own d*** way and your children's lost life too!

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  • 35. At 7:52pm on 12 May 2009, Entotsu wrote:

    In reply to post 34.
    Almost everyone leaving a comment here is saying the same thing; prohibition costs more and doesn't work. Is this because thay are all wooly-minded liberals or do they reflect the opinion of a cross section of the public? I would suggest the reason for this unison is simple - it's just common sense, the bleeding obvious that our elected representatives and such blinkered attitudes are unable or afraid to entertain.

    I know something about recreational drug use and so do many of my friends, including doctors, policemen and other professionals. The taking of mind-altering substances is, for most people, not an anti-social, immoral or dangerous pastime, it's just normal human behaviour that has been going on since we came down from the trees. And guess what? Done responsibly and safely, it's fun and educational!

    As long as this behaviour is portrayed in terms of "Drug crazed, paranoid murderers", "Evil pusher in playground" and "Ecstasy killed Leah Betts" (it didn't, by the way), then people will die from ignorance; SOCA's latest spurious claims only support this ridiculous and dangerous policy of mis-information.

    On the street, if you'll pardon the expression, everyone knows the cocaine price hike and drop in purity is about exchange rates, not drop-in-the-ocean busts. The "War on Drugs" is the new Vietnam; unwinnable and SOCA know it, just like (almost) everyone else who is at all informed. How much longer can the authorities and the elected snouts in the trough continue to deny the elephant in the room?

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  • 36. At 8:07pm on 12 May 2009, newspaceman wrote:

    Joan, 34, your comments reek of ill-educated paranoia. Our government is the biggest drug dealer - think fags and booze.

    You would like to pay teachers etc. more wages, who will fund that, the rest of us ? What do you class as a "brilliant education", one which reinforces the myth that humans should work 40 hrs per week and pay the majority of their earnings in taxes and interest payments ?

    As a parent, i would be interested to hear your view of "my full potential". Is that subscribing and educating my child to myths ?

    You need to wisen up and educate yourself - most "young person's dreams" are just that = x factor, footballer etc., - it is a numbers game, sorry to shatter your new world illusions.

    cheers

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  • 37. At 8:16pm on 12 May 2009, Euforiater wrote:

    34, Joan, Now you show your true colours. I thought you were being sarcastic with your first comment but it appears you were serious! I'm not addicted to any drug and neither are most of the people supporting legalisation. That's the biggest myth of the whole thing. I'm just one of the many people who've worked it all out and do not believed every ridiculous word written in the tabloids. It's a huge con! Whether originally started for good reasons or not, prohibition is now being kept going by those who profit from it:
    The press who wouldn't want to give up the "fear factor" which keeps people reading.
    The various agencies and bureaucratic pressure groups that seem to have the governments ear any time there's a decision to be made regarding drugs.
    The customs, police and security people who get lots of nice shiny surveillance equipment and a fat budget.
    And of course, offically, the "other side" - the dealers and drug barons.
    The war's observers are of course the Politicians who have no particular preference but the way the votes blow - so while public opinion remains for prohibition, so do they. Look out in the near future for the "swing point" when they can see people's attitudes changing enough for them to dare voice a different opinion. The first one to do it will see it as a long-term grab for power.
    They've called it the "War on Drugs" and it is like a war because there are combatants and casualties - e.g. those who can't quit their addiction because they daren't look for help, those who overdose because their dealer didn't mix it this time etc.
    It's a strange war, this one, though. A lot of the combatants actually profit from it.

    I suspect it will take a lot to coax you out from your Daily Mail trench - I'm guessing your addiction is fear, leading to the regular purchase of your favourite tabloid. But hopefully one day you will venture out and see that life can be great if you let go the fear and let freedom have a go. Let's hope it's soon, we're not all bad out here.

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  • 38. At 8:17pm on 12 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Few things said here have not been thought about in anyway other than the knee jerk reaction of tabloid feed couch potatos.

    A little over 40 years ago drugs were legal with very little harm to sociaty other than the users health. Why ?

    A, they were legal and sold in chemists.
    B, they were illegal and sold by anyone willing to make a profit

    In 2 years time MODA 71 will celebrate 40 years of enforced fear on the public of the UK. Maybe now would be a good time to take a factual snap shot of both the cost and impact to everyone who has had to live with this missguided law. Then 2 years from now re-examine this snapshot of the problem and see if there is any proof this appraoch has worked.

    it will be easy to predict the outcome.

    for the knee jerkers out there http://www.tdpf.org.uk/


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  • 39. At 8:20pm on 12 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com/2009/05/clutching-at-straws-soca-claims-it-is.html

    sorry missed this

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  • 40. At 8:46pm on 12 May 2009, AJS wrote:

    I notice elsewhere that last year's Colombian coffee harvest was particularly poor. It doesn't take much of a leap to suppose that maybe the coca harvest was also similarly affected last year.

    This press release is just so much self-serving hot air.

    It should be obvious to anyone with half a brain that cocaine being illegal is doing more harm than cocaine would be doing if it were legal.

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  • 41. At 9:51pm on 12 May 2009, stanilic wrote:

    Message 38

    Are you telling me that drugs were freely available forty years ago in 1969?

    This is absolute nonsense, by then the first Misuse of Drugs Act had been in place for a couple of years and that was when the authorities really lost control as they spent most of their time searching innocent people for something they knew nothing about.

    Prior to then heroin addicts were treated well and often successfully - these were the days when prescriptions were filled at Boots in Piccadilly Circus - but this changed because of the authoritarian approach of the then Labour government. It was alleged that the registered addicts sold their stash to non-registered users for money. This argument never made that much sense to me as surely an addict would want to keep his supply.

    The entire issue revolves around addiction and its management. We need to address that as every other perspective just moves the grief from one place to another. Why do people allow themselves to fall so low?

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  • 42. At 06:26am on 13 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Euforiater,
    I don't hava a problem with legalizing drugs, I just have a problem paying for other people's hospitalizations through overdose, caring for their children because their parents are too strung out to care. As a former teacher, I was on the front lines watching how drugs have ripped apart the lives of children, murdered their fathers,killed their teen brothers and so on and so forth ad nauseum. You can measure the mental health of a nation through its children and our children are suffering because their parents are too selfish to let go of their addictions and
    put their focus on their children. I don't know what tabloid world you live in but I see the ugly reality of drug addiction everyday in the lives of innocent children who must needlessly suffer because of their parent's selfish addictions. Go and mentor a child on the mean streets of Los Angeles and you'll hear about a life of horrific emotional pain. The difference between us is that you read about it in a newspaper and I live it every horrifying day.

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  • 43. At 08:07am on 13 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    Joan, the only way to make the drug trafficking industry pay towards healthcare etc. is to tax it, and that means it has to be legalised. Alcohol presents exactly the same problems that you describe, and puts a large strain on the health services - which is one of the reasons why it's so heavily taxed. A similar system could obviously be used for other drugs, with tax levels being set based on a metric estimating known economic cost to society of consumption of a particular type of drug. This would probably mean alcohol being more heavily taxed (the cost of policing our cities and to the NHS every weekend is enormous), whilst drugs that don't provoke violence, and hence don't require active policing (e.g. cannabis), would be cheaper, thus having the beneficial effect of providing a direct economic incentive towards consumption of less harmful drugs.

    I consume a drug called alcohol regularly in a low purity form (beer), and occasionally in a higher purity form (whisky). Despite your assertions in #34, I'm not a crazed, paranoid murderer, and I'm not an addict. Most people in the U.K. consume drugs in a similar fashion on a weekly, or even daily, basis, and yet somehow our society is still functioning.

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  • 44. At 08:12am on 13 May 2009, LippyLippo wrote:

    Surely there are other factors at work here as well? The falling pound, the worldwide recession leading to less disposable income to spend on drugs, higher unemployment...? Have these been factored in? Hopefully the recession will lead to a drop in demand from the UK, especially since it is affecting the middle classes as well. Cocaine is a drug for the more affluent in our society, and now these vile selfish middle-class dabblers have less money in their pockets, maybe they'll stop with the cocaine.

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  • 45. At 08:30am on 13 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    LippyLippo, cocaine is no longer a drug for the wealthy - I refer you to the recent Telegraph article "Cocaine cheaper than lager and wine as drug price falls by half" which states "a line of cocaine can cost as little as £1, with an average price per line of between £2 and £4."

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  • 46. At 09:29am on 13 May 2009, Euforiater wrote:

    Hello again Joan (post 42),

    If what you say about your role as a teacher is true then I don't understand how you can back up the rest of your claims.
    "I don't hava a problem with legalizing drugs, I just have a problem paying for other people's hospitalizations through overdose, caring for their children because their parents are too strung out to care."
    - Overdoses are because the supply concentration is uncertain - solved by giving the supply to doctors. Then they can use their skills to wean the user off them.

    "I don't know what tabloid world you live in"
    - I don't read tabloids as you should have suspected from the reasoned reply above. Compare it to your original tabloid-esque comments. "Selfish addictions" is a typically tabloid phrase. If someone is addicted to Heroin I suspect it is not by choice, they need weaning off it. I can guarantee that's not the aim of the (illegal) drug supplier. It would definitely be the aim of the medical profession.
    I make no street-cred claim to "be on the front line". All I know is that the War on Drugs has gone on for 38 years and has only escalated - all the problems you have talked about have happened DURING this war and it's time to end it. Legalising doesn't mean a free-for-all, in fact it means controlled regulation based on medical facts.

    Sometimes you have to stand back to be able to see the wood from the trees. Please don't take this personally, I just want us all to think about this - in my younger days I too used to think "hit 'em hard and it will all go away" but I now realise I was wrong, that was never going to work.

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  • 47. At 09:48am on 13 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    41 maybe the wording was wrong but up untill 1969 were unregulated better word than legal. But then its all about the wording aint it :)

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  • 48. At 10:37am on 13 May 2009, bromleytree wrote:

    Has anyone got any suggestions as to how drugs will be distributed once legalised?
    Will we have to get prescriptions for our drugs or are you suggesting they are just 'legal' ?
    How much heroin/ cocaine will we be allowed per day?
    How much do you think the government will tax the drugs once legalised and will this create a further sub market?
    How do we deal with crack/ heroin addicts, will they stop committing crime to fund their habits?

    Just a few of many questions on this subject....

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  • 49. At 10:38am on 13 May 2009, shasarak wrote:

    Responding to #34 and #42: Joan, no one is suggesting that legal drugs will be harmless. All we're suggesting is that they will be LESS harmful than illegal drugs.

    You're clearly assuming that drug use will massively increase if the drugs become legal, but that assumption simply isn't correct. Put it this way: if, right now, someone *wants* to take heroin or cocaine, is the current legal setup able to prevent him from doing so? Nearly always the answer to that is "no". If Prohibition were capable of actually stopping people from taking drugs then there might be an argument for it, but it isn't: people who want to take drugs can and do take them anyway. The only difference is that the drugs they take are dangerously adulterated and preposterously expensive (and the profits go to some very unpleasant people).

    You're quite right to say that lives touched by drugs tend to get damaged; but much of that damage is caused by the fact that the drugs are illegal. Raising the cash to fund an illegal drug habit is a full-time job and often requires the addict to turn to crime. Legal drugs are so much cheaper that this won't happen any more; consequently lives will no longer be destroyed in anything like the same way. Currently drug-dealers may be violent criminals; if the drugs are legalised then every criminal drug-dealer in the country will go out of business overnight, and the drugs will be manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and distributed by pharmacists or shop-keepers - the mafia won't get a look-in. Overdoses generally happen when a drug user gets a batch of drug that is unexpectedly pure; with legal drugs that won't happen any more because the purity is controlled. And if you really want producers of drugs to be taxed so that they can pay for the damage their wares cause, the only way to do that is to legalise the business! Otherwise you have no way of identifying the manufacturers and taxing them!

    You need to stop thinking in terms of "how can we stop people taking drugs?" because the answer to that question is very simple: YOU CAN'T. Instead you need to be asking "how can we reduce the harm done by drugs?" The answer to *that* is "regulation".

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  • 50. At 3:33pm on 13 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    Bromleytree,

    "Has anyone got any suggestions as to how drugs will be distributed once legalised?"
    The same regime as that applied to alcohol - I personally think that the current alcohol regime is a bit lax since it seems children and alcoholics can easily get the stuff, so I would have no problem with a smartcard enablement scheme that prevents those groups from buying (there would be an obvious concern that this merely increases the price for those people rather than eliminating supply, thus leading to the same problems of crime to pay for supply), more research on whether it is better to restrict supply to hardcore alcoholics would be needed. However, my view is probably in the minority - the majority of people in this country seem satisfied with the current licensing laws.

    "Will we have to get prescriptions for our drugs or are you suggesting they are just 'legal' ?"
    Same regulations as alcohol.

    "How much heroin/ cocaine will we be allowed per day?"
    Same regulations as alcohol.

    "How much do you think the government will tax the drugs once legalised and will this create a further sub market?"
    No, as others have explained, given the cheapness of mass pharmaceutical manufacturing it will be financially impossible for illegal supply chains to operate - who is going to pay more for unregulated drugs mixed in some guys bedroom? To repeat what someone else said above, when was the last time you were offered bootleg whisky on a street corner in the U.K.?

    "How do we deal with crack/ heroin addicts, will they stop committing crime to fund their habits?"
    How do we deal with alcoholics? They either go in to treatment programmes, or they end up on the streets whiling their day away with a 3 quid bottle of supermarket cider.. when was the last time you heard of an alcoholic commiting crime to fund their habit? When the cost is low enough that you can get a substantial hit of high-alcohol paid for by 30 minutes begging then there's no need to commit crime; why would it be any different with other drugs?

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  • 51. At 4:09pm on 13 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    There are other distribution models that are quite interesting - the Swedish "Systembolaget" distribution model works quite well to restrict sales to children and young teenagers, and in Sweden I did not see the same drunken problems that plague British cities at the weekend. In Sweden, low-alcohol drinks are available in supermarkets, but high-alcohol drinks are only sold through government shops to adults over 20 years of age. The fact that anyone, even children, can freely buy the low (usually about 1.7%) alcohol in supermarkets takes away the "cool" factor, and it is cheap since there is no tax on low-alcohol drinks. These measures provide a direct economic incentive, and an ease-of-purchase incentive, to buy and consume low-alcohol drinks.

    The question of whether such a system would be practical in the U.K., or acceptable to the British public, is another matter.

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  • 52. At 4:51pm on 13 May 2009, bromleytree wrote:

    Chris X

    You are already suggesting a form of regulation by using a smart card system. Would this be linked to the ID card system? ie. impossible to introduce or regulate.

    I cannot imagine going into my local pub and buying a £10 bag of crack and half a lager. Or sharing the toilet with someone who is injecting heroin? What you envisage would horrify most of the population

    My point was that the governement would heavily tax anything like drugs which would automatically create another market for illicitly obtained. or created substances.

    Contrary to your belief there is a substantial market in this country for bootlegged tobacco and alcohol.

    Do you live in the UK or some sort of Utopia?

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  • 53. At 5:13pm on 13 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Euforiator and Shasarak,
    Your arguments seem very neat and convincing. The only problem is that your assumption that drugs will be regulated and sold in pharmacies, overseen by a doctors care sound like the best intentions of "mice and men". Do you honestly think you can wrest control of drugs from the Mafia? Would independent drug dealers then try to undercut the Mafia? How much more violence would result from that? The profit from legalizing drugs may be too enticing for governments not to regulate it.
    Would troops be sent in to protect drug "turf"? Also, Do you really want your own government regulating drugs when they have such P** poor track record of regulating everything else?

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  • 54. At 7:08pm on 13 May 2009, Ernie wrote:

    "Do you honestly think you can wrest control of drugs from the Mafia? Would independent drug dealers then try to undercut the Mafia?"

    Wow, what a wonderfully colourful world there is in your head!

    If legalised and regulated the bottom would just fall out of the market. Look at prohibition in the US, when re-legalisation occurred, did the bootleggers still make a profit?

    Unfortunately, by then, the likes of Capone had made millions and could turn to other things. But nothing would ever be as easy for them again. And that's what the current laws are doing, funneling masses of money to criminal organisations.

    I would never take heroin, legal or not, by the way. Education can do wonderful things for a person. But regulation could stop addicts from going on crime sprees to feed their hunger for it. We'd be in a safer world, not a more dangerous one.

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  • 55. At 8:37pm on 13 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    I was reading some stuff and came across this. Who needs farmers when you can have Pharmas.
    The purity of uncut illicit synthetic cocaine can vary dramatically depending on the skill of the clandestine operator performing the synthesis. Illicit synthetic cocaine will not contain many of the alkaloidal impurities commonly identified in illicit natural cocaine, e.g., trimethoxycocaine, the cinnamoylcocaines or the truxillines, but can include any of a wide variety of synthetic by-products (some of which match naturally occurring alkaloidal impurities). Of these, pseudococaine, benzoyltropine and tropacocaine, resulting from benzoylation of pseudoecgonine methyl ester, tropine and pseudotropine, respectively, are the most likely. Additional impurities which are indicative of synthetic cocaine include 3-benzoyloxy-2-carbomethoxytropidine (2,3-didehydrococaine), 3-benzoyloxytropidine (2,3-didehydrotropacocaine), and 2-carbomethoxy-3-methylaminotropidine22. 2,3-Didehydrococaine and 2,3-didehydrotropacocaine result from the benzoylation of unreduced 2-carbomethoxytropinone and tropinone, respectively, and 2-carbomethoxy-3-methylaminotropidine from the irreversible rearrangement of the 2-carbomethoxytropinone/methylamine imine formed during the initial Mannich condensation reaction

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  • 56. At 9:30pm on 13 May 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    bromleytree

    'Contrary to your belief there is a substantial market in this country for bootlegged tobacco and alcohol.'

    well i live in Dover, there used to be a huge industry in bootleg fags and beer here, but even here, the closest place to the continent the bootleg market has all but died. There is certainly not a substantial supply anymore. It is easier to buy illegal drugs than it is to buy illegal fags. Cocaine is a dangerous drug but it is a hell of a lot more dangerous unregulated, the only way we can protect our children from this drug is to legalise and regulate. The recent cost-benefit report done by transform alleged that nearly all of the acquisition crime committed in the UK was to feed heroin and cocaine addicts habits, legalisation would stop that. The money saved would fund more rehabilitation places, there would be less of a strain on the UK prisons. A legalised and regulated drug industry would create thousands of jobs. Money from alcohol sales funds the NHS, but drug money funds only criminal gangs and costs the NHS. Nearly 30% of 16-59's have used cannabis, 1 in 3 people, you probably live with, are friends of, work with a cannabis user, the fact is drugs like cannabis are here to stay where you agree with it or not, isn't it about time we stop wasting money fighting it and start making some money from it?

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  • 57. At 9:37pm on 13 May 2009, The Laundryman wrote:

    "There are plenty of people who have gone against the rules of the masses, been jailed or killed for it, and who are today considered heroes for their actions. "

    ...And hundreds of thousands more who are still considered criminals.

    "If legalised and regulated the bottom would just fall out of the market. Look at prohibition in the US, when re-legalisation occurred, did the bootleggers still make a profit?"

    ... Bootleggers did, and continue to make massive profits from smuggling alcohol, no longer circumventing prohibition they instead evade the tax that lots of people here seem to think will be the cure all to our drug problems. Get real, the traffickers will simply change and adapt to the market, but now they would not have to fear long jail terms!

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  • 58. At 10:45pm on 13 May 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    The_Laundryman. Prescribing drugs like heroin and cocaine would seriously dent the illegal drugs trade, why would a smack head go through the trouble of having to rob some old woman to buy some heroin that may or may not be cut with an even more dangerous chemical when they can go to their doctors and get it prescribed for free?. Prescribed for free because of the massive saving from fighting the drug. Pretty much all the cannabis users would go to the legal outlet where they know they are going to get a decent bag of weed, what ever you read in the daily mail about skunk getting stronger is wrong i can assure you of that, the skunk of today is no where near the quality of 30 years ago. If demand wasnt there then the dealers wouldnt be there that is a fact. The UK is currently manufacturing poppies that can produce heroin, but instead it is producing morphine for the NHS, so it is possible for the UK to grow and benefit from it. i think it's about time you got real, get your head out of the sand the drug problem is not going away how ever much cash and police you throw at it. MoDa '71 is doing more harm than good.

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  • 59. At 11:38pm on 13 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Gothnet,
    The only problem is that alcohol consumption has steadily increased since prohibition and younger and younger children are in detox for their alcohol addiction. All decriminalising does is allow drug dealers to spread their contagion unheeded without risk of imprisonment. I'm not convinced that regulating drugs is the way to go. If people received free psychological counseling earlier in their lives as opposed to using drugs to numb their psychic pain, then this argument would be a mute issue.

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  • 60. At 11:54pm on 13 May 2009, fcatzzz wrote:

    notice that psychiatrists are pinning cannabis up againstthe ropes again - well it is nice to have something to blame when life goes wrong

    actually would like to hear about psychiatrists offering concerned patients at least a possiblity of psychic awareness and spirit communication

    we know the government has no create paranoia and rule policy. we know that mike reed didn't really dream up a method of using media to create paranoia in persons who may be indulging in criminal activities in the 1980's. we know the system does not reward informers with agendas. we know the system does not judge on looks. we know that pot is not cut with dangerous plant forms that can be found in the local garden centres for example datura so we don't need legal quality approved and trusted sales persons

    only pot smoking hippies believe in any of that kind of nonsense

    thankfully psychiatrists can help with very useful drugs
    thankfully unpredictability in persons using valium etc to aid their situations which balances out their unpredictable behaviours as the rest of the family / office / workforce pussy foot their way around the eggshells to avoid upsetting these very special precious law abiding souls

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  • 61. At 01:11am on 14 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    Bromleytree, The_Laundryman: there is an important distinction that you have both missed, and that is the difference between "bootleg" in the sense of "alcohol distilled in some guys garage" (or "tobacco grown in some guys house") and "bootleg" in the sense of "non-payment of tax". There may be a small number of people in the U.K. who smuggle mass produced legal drugs (alcohol and tobacco) from jurisdictions with lower tax rates, or who mark these drugs for export but resell into the domestic market, thus evading domestic taxation. This is an entirely different issue from that of people manufacturing and distilling their own alcohol, or farming and harvesting their own tobacco.

    In more precise and less ambiguous language, I shall ask again, "When was the last time you were approached on a street corner and offered whisky and other spirits that had been manufactured in an illegal still, or tobacco that had been grown in an illegal farming operation?" It simply never happens - legal commercial manufacturing, even with high taxation, is massively more economically efficient than illegal manufacturing.

    In answer to other questions: Bromleytree says a card based scheme would be "impossible to introduce or regulate" - this is blatantly wrong, since we already have regulation of alcohol based on ID cards - most supermarkets now operate a scheme where if a person appears to be under the age of 25 they must show an ID card to purchase alcohol. The hypothetical scenario of "sharing the toilet with someone who is injecting heroin" is a strawman argument - firstly, regulation means that areas of consumption could be controlled, unlike now (I like in one of the most middle-class cities in the U.K, and have seen young professionals openly snorting cocaine in nightclub toilets. The idea that cocaine being illegal stops it being consumed in public toilets is ridiculous). Secondly, I don't want to share the toilet with a homeless drunk either, but that doesn't mean that I advocate banning alcohol.

    And to paraphrase Joan: "Do you honestly think you can wrest control of alcohol from the Mafia? Would independent alcohol dealers then try to undercut the Mafia? How much more violence would result from that? The profit from legalizing alcohol may be too enticing for governments not to regulate it. Would troops be sent in to protect alcohol "turf"? Also, Do you really want your own government regulating alcohol when they have such P** poor track record of regulating everything else?" Joan, given the history of prohibition in the U.S., the rise of Al Capone and the gangsters, and the bloody violence that accompanied it, are you surprised that the alcohol market is now controlled by Budweiser and co. rather than the Mafia? Are Labatts and Jack Daniels executives locked in a bloody turf war? No, absolutely not. How can you explain this, given your assertion that this is what would happen?

    Could any of the pro-prohibitionists please provide a rational argument explaining why alcohol should be legal whilst less harmful drugs are illegal? A previous article by Mark Easton includes a "harm" graph indicating that, of the 20 drugs included, alcohol ranks 5th in terms of the harm it causes - and that data was compiled before the recent developments linking alcohol consumption with dementia - which when taken into account would possibly make alcohol the most dangerous drug available, either legally or illegally.

    So could some of the drug prohibitionists please explain why it is that alcohol should be treated differently? What special properties does a molecule of alcohol possess that means it should be legal? Or do all of the prohibitionists commenting on this article also want to ban alcohol?

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  • 62. At 09:19am on 14 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    #60
    "thankfully psychiatrists can help with very useful drugs"

    you meen very powerfull drugs that reduce a person to a dribbling mess so they are no longer aware of life or cause long term addiction.

    Ive had 2 major addictions to such drugs yet ive never had an addiction to cannabis, which has stabised my mental health problem through natural tranceport mechanisums of the CB1 and CB2 receptors involved in the distributaion disposal and uptake of dopamine and seratonim in the human brain. Yet the people who have the degree's in pshyco bable still insist that it harms me....

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  • 63. At 12:15pm on 14 May 2009, Josh1711 wrote:

    Which reminds me, theres a fog. The continent has been cut off.

    Today 45,000 British Pounds is 49,950 Euros or 67,950 US dollars.
    Twelve months ago 39,000 Pounds were 49,140 Euros or 75,660 US dollars ().

    So the only things that collapsed have been the currency and the economy and with it the purchasing power of sniffing City snobs.

    Please Mark, have pity on us next time.

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  • 64. At 2:28pm on 14 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Chris_X,
    I don't know if you realize it but you misquoted me. Perhaps you did so unintentionally but the point I made was wresting control of drugs from the Mafia. This simple fact will probably never change and more and more power falls into their hands as evidenced by the recent AIG money laundering scheme. Legalizing it or not legalizing it won't change the fact that they control the market whether it's sold legally in a pharmacy or illegally on the street. In any case, I know that this topic is really touchy since there is a very huge portion of average citizens who sell drugs as a livelihood, more than the government probably realizes.

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  • 65. At 2:44pm on 14 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Chris_X,
    Budweiser is owned by the Mafia. Instead of wearing hats and shooting tommy guns they wear Armani suits and shoot with Blackberries.

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  • 66. At 4:02pm on 14 May 2009, Have your say Rejected wrote:

    fcatzzz, 'we know that pot is not cut with dangerous plant forms that can be found in the local garden centres for example datura so we don't need legal quality approved and trusted sales persons'.... pot is cut with car tires, engine oil dog poo too name a few, skunk can be coated with glass and other chemicals also to bulk it out.

    Joan Olivares, the mafia and other criminal gangs control drugs because they are illegal. Heroin producing poppies are being grown in the UK by farmers not the mafia, so could cannabis, and many other drugs. Legalising is the only solution to remove the criminal element making money off drugs. None mafia associated farmers could quite easily grow drugs like cannabis heroin and coca, none mafia associated pharmacists could easily manufacture drugs like ecstasy and amphetamine. There is absolutely no proof that legal drugs would still continue to fund criminals.

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  • 67. At 4:23pm on 14 May 2009, newspaceman wrote:

    Hiya Joan, any chance you could step off your high horse and answer my previous questions detailed in post 36.

    I would appreciate a response, especially to your comment as to realsing the "full potential" of a parent. Does that mean brainwashing, in the same manner that your own mind has obviously been washed of both intelligence and free thinking ?

    Most people take drugs because there lives are miserable - for obvious reasons, given they are born into slavery. Have you heard of Ronnie Laing, if not, look him up on wiki.

    cheers

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  • 68. At 5:06pm on 14 May 2009, newspaceman wrote:

    ps Joan, you wrote:

    In any case, I know that this topic is really touchy since there is a very huge portion of average citizens who sell drugs as a livelihood, more than the government probably realizes.

    Could you expand on this statement, maybe provide some figures as to "huge proportion" and, as regards "probably realises", do they realise or not. That is the question - as you write in Orwellian newspeak in this instance.

    I could likewise analyse your bove statement and glean that perhaps you inferring that some of the commenters here (including me) are, shall we say, protecting their own interests. That is how it seems.

    cheers

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  • 69. At 6:24pm on 14 May 2009, london707 wrote:

    Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the legality of drugs under British law, the current situation is such that they are illegal, they are generally sold by rather unpleasant people and they do frequently ruin and destroy not only users lives but those of the people around them. I am neither pro or anti legalisation, there are certainly some controlled substances where it would be a positive move to legalise them, and it is certainly a little confusing that Nicotine is legal (just) despite being one of the most toxic substances known to humankind and yet less lethal drugs are illegal.

    But... until the law is changed, and even then there will almost certainly remain controlled substances which are too dangerous to legalise, there is a clear and present need for an organisation such as SOCA to enforce the law.

    On a more general note, SOCA is not a British version of the DEA, the full title is after-all the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, and work against drug smuggling is only a part of its remit. Thus whatever the stance towards drug crime, are there any who would argue that they should discontinue their work on people trafficking? or gun running? To give two examples of their other work.

    If you look at the early history of the Security Service (MI5) it met with similar problems in finding its feet, and it was only through being given time that its value has to some extent become appreciated by the public. SOCA needs time to get the experience it needs to properly fulfill its intended role, and although in recent years knee-jerk responses have been popular (especially among certain politicians), perhaps it is time that we learnt that there are no such things as quick fixes!

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  • 70. At 9:02pm on 14 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    the work of soca is not at question its the overall effect that they will have on the drugs market yes they scored well this time but as I pointed out in an earlier post synthetic cocaine is already made. Ive found the recipes for 12 different versions on the internet already. the chemicals that are used to make such things can be manufacured from other chemicals the site also included the methord of how to convert the common chemicals to the ones needed. the hows, ways, and prossess to make cocaine in the home.

    We live in a world that now moves at such a pace with advancements in science better education and an unending desire for wealth at any cost.
    This is what soca must also take in to account.

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  • 71. At 10:35pm on 14 May 2009, london707 wrote:

    Synthetic production of cocaine is of course possible given modern science, but it currently accounts for a tiny fraction of global production and subsequent consumption due to the comparative expense of its production. The majority still originates from various South American nations, where it has been shown from various sources to fund among others FARC, which is widely accepted internationally as a terrorist organisation.

    As you say there is that ever present 'desire for wealth at any cost' that has become such a defining feature of the modern world, thus it has to be assumed that even if cocaine were legalised in the UK those who wish to buy it would still find the cheapest supplier, which even if legal synthetic labs were set up, would probably still be South America.

    This only serves to reinforce that whether or not SOCA is currently effective at cutting that supply route or not, it should only serve to redouble our endeavors to prevent the sale of unethically sourced cocaine on Britain's streets. And I am not just referring to the fact that I very much doubt whether coca farmers in Columbia get enough of the final price for it to qualify for 'fairtrade' status.

    Whatever the moral arguments may be regarding consumption in the UK, do no forget that the suffering caused by those producing and supplying the chain is very real. Something which according to basic economics will not significantly change whether it is legal or illegal to consume it.

    This is something which the British public must also take into account.

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  • 72. At 11:43pm on 14 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    Joan, Budweiser is not owned by the Mafia - it is produced by a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is a Belgian public company traded on the Euronext stock exchange. If you have a pension, or a shares ISA, then it is possible that you in fact own some tiny portion of this company. And given the choice between gangsters with guns and executives with blackberries, isn't the answer obvious?

    london707, the army teaches officers not to issue an order that they know is likely to be disobeyed - the reasoning being that this is not only futile, but also undermines the chain of command by making soldiers more likely to disobey future orders. The rule of law is similar; any law that is likely to be disobeyed by a significant portion of the population will become unenforceable, and the presence of the law itself will ultimately undermine respect for the law in other areas.

    Like the Iraq war, the question regarding the "war on drugs" is not whether our troops and police should be supported in doing a difficult job, but in whether we, as a country, should be asking them to do the job in the first place. Without any metric to measure success, and without any clearly defined objectives, it is impossible to say whether or not the agency is meeting the standards set for it by the British people. And without clearly defined, measurable objectives, government agencies invariably become bloated pits that suck in more and more money.

    Try and imagine what it would actually take to "win" the war on drugs - the U.S. tried prohibition and it led to the rise of organised crime and massive amounts of violence. The only countries where restricting drugs has ever succeeded have been those that are effectively police states (former Soviet Union, North Korea, Iran, etc.) In these countries, if a person were suspected of being involved with drugs, they would be quickly executed following a dummy trial in which they had no defence or legal representation. A huge proportion of the population were informers who gave police information not only on dealers, but also people they simply didn't like, in order to have them removed from society. It is only in such a society that the illegal drug trade can be controlled - once individuals are given freedoms, such as the right to a fair trial, the right to communicate freely with other citizens, the right to not incriminate oneself (which is a defence against state sanctioned police torture), then it becomes impossible for the state to completely control what people do. And if the state can't completely control the people, and a large percentage of the people don't want the war on drugs (and the current statistics seem to put this at >25% of the population), then the war can never be won, and asking our police to fight it is a futile gesture that has more to do with political convenience than reality.

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  • 73. At 07:01am on 15 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Chris_X
    Google his name: Sergio Villareal Barragan.

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  • 74. At 07:09am on 15 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Newsspaceman,
    I don't have statistics because the ordinary families that live on a typical neighborhood, on a typical street, in a typical town haven't been caught yet. Just ask any drug dealer in your town and they'll be able to point them out. A random sampling should give you a pretty good estimation. What was your other question?

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  • 75. At 07:42am on 15 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Newspaceman1
    Yes, people on drugs are very quick to defend their habit, which to me is indefensible. I'm sorry if you feel my attitude seems high and mighty but I really wonder if drug addicts know just how much pain they cause their families and the people who love them. It's like the commercial where an elephant's in the living room and everyone ignores it because they're too afraid to confront it. Many people on drugs started taking them at a time when they faced tradgedies or difficulties. If that was at 15, then their emotional growth is basically stuck at that level. I believe its better to deal with the emotional issues eventhough that csn initially be even more painful. If people can resolve these buried traumas of their past, they can find alot of happiness without it being induced by their drug of choice.

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  • 76. At 07:49am on 15 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Over dealing of substances i will have to say Joan is right but and its a big but, this alternate world is also split straight down the middle. I know several dealers of cannabis of which some have supplied friends for near on 20 year without ever getting looked at. Because they have chosen to sell to adults only.!

    however the ones that deal class A are generaly handed over because they deal in the middle ground. the way the current drug world is modeled.

    Pubic general - Hard core drug retailers - socialy responcable drug retailers.

    However the Media and goverment see only 2 parts of this public and drug retailers.

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  • 77. At 10:37am on 15 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    Joan, I can not find any reference to ties between Sergio Villareal Barragan, who appears to be a Mexican drug trafficker, and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is a publically traded Belgian company. Perhaps you could supply a link?

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  • 78. At 10:47am on 15 May 2009, london707 wrote:

    Dear Chris_X

    A few points...

    Current UN predictions place cocaine usage at a maximum of 2.4% of the UK population, with a potential maximum of just of 3% having at some point used it. By democratic definitions this is not the majority of the population breaking a law. Even if your figure of 25% of the population being against the war on drugs it is still a figure that is well below a referendum winning level. I would also question what portion of that number of people actually know anything of the 'war on drugs' as you quote Bush, and are not simply basing their stance on hearsay and conjecture.

    Whether or not the efforts to counter the illegal drug trade are winnable or not, my point was very much that it doesn't matter, the flow of money has to be stopped from heading to groups which are proven to have committed swathes of murders, kidnappings, to have extorted money from those who can ill afford it, to have worked against the democratically elected government of their nation. As I also pointed out, whether or not the drugs are illegal or not this flow of money would likely still continue and so it is not about the repression of the British people, so much as doing the right thing and preventing money going to those who wish to cause harm.

    You provide a lot of conjecture about the wrongs of totalitarian governments, but I would remind you that Britain (despite Blair and Brown's best efforts) is still far from a totalitarian state, we still governed by a democratically elected government and the rights set down by Magna Carta are still held.

    The point about bloated governments sucking in money... once again I ask for proof, I can give off a number of examples very quickly of departments which certainly began at least with very open ended remits but did not develop in the way you suggest. The very first ancestor of SOCA the Metropolitan Police Special Branch of the last 19th Century had an ill-defined specification, yet it did not go on to swallow up huge quantities of tax payers money. Its success can be measured by it having been widely copied, and in a adjusted form it effectively still exists to this day.

    SOCA do not deal with simple numbers, they deal with gathering intelligence and working with human beings, if you believe it is healthy for them to view the British public or indeed any of the people they deal with as nothing more than a statistic, then I feel you are politically more aligned with those totalitarian states you went on about!

    And to go back to your 25% point... flip the statistic, it still means somewhere around 75% are not sympathetic to the legalisation of drugs, that is a democratic majority.

    I am not saying that the way to solve the problem is through Police intervention and enforcement, but until and only if the point where the drugs are legalised, and then those who use them casually realise the harm they are causing inadvertently by consuming unethically sourced substances, and those who are addicted are helped off their addictions, and those who are tempted to use them are fully educated with all the relevant information, then we should not be so naive as to suggest that there is no need for that Police work to be done. Be idealistic and say that legalising drugs will solve the problems, but you would be committing just as great an error of poorly thought through judgement as the Pentagon made when it forgot there would be work to be done after it had toppled Saddam Hussain... and look what happened there. The world is far far more complicated than that.

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  • 79. At 10:49am on 15 May 2009, newspaceman wrote:

    Sorry Joan, but I asked you for the facts behind your comment that "a very huge portion of average citizens" sell drugs.

    Your response is to you ask me to locate a local drug dealer who will somehow point them out to me.

    This is drivel, I am sorry to say. You are making up "facts" to suit your argument.

    cheers

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  • 80. At 11:04am on 15 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    this is about the only thing i found on the mafia boss.http://celebrity-gossip-fathima.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html A hostile takeover of bud. 46 billion dollars offered...If such people have this type of money for legal enterprise then our governments have lost before they start.

    "The prospect of Anheuser-Busch being taken over by a brewing company with roots in Belgium and Brazil has made some Northern Plains barley growers uneasyBudweiser is king in Idaho, Montana and North Dakota, where nearly three-fourths of the nation's barley is grown. Fairfield, in north-central Montana, even touts itself as the "Barley Capital of the World." Malt barley from the region also finds its way into beers brewed by Coors, Miller and international companies that include Grupo Modelo SA, a Mexican producer that recently built an Idaho Falls, Idaho, plant to process barley into malt.

    News that InBev SA, formed in 2004 from beverage companies in Belgium and Brazil, made an unsolicited offer of roughly $46 billion for Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos. unsettled some barley growers because many sign preseason contracts with the St. Louis company. Under those contracts, farmers sell their best barley to Anheuser-Busch rather than chance selling it on the open market.

    The prospect of a hostile takeover remained Thursday after Anheuser-Busch, brewer of Bud Light and Michelob as well as Budweiser, unanimously rejected InBev's offer of June 11. Anheuser-Busch Chairman Patrick Stokes said the proposal undervalued the company. In what could be the first move toward a hostile takeover, InBev announced Thursday that it had filed for a court judgment that Anheuser-Busch shareholders can remove the company's board without cause."

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  • 81. At 6:52pm on 15 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]Dear Chris_X
    The information isn't overt. You have to dig a little. There are lawsuits filed through Legal Institute and Project Hermes, the U.S.Supreme Court and [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] Hopefully you can translate a bit of spanish.

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  • 82. At 7:17pm on 15 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear newsspaceman1
    How is it drivel if they're not on the police's radar yet?

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  • 83. At 8:02pm on 15 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Joan you have just hit the flaw in this system of prohabition/harm reduction.

    "How is it drivel if they're not on the police's radar yet?"
    Two and a half million users in this country who ALL will at some time have done what is defined by law as 'dealing in cannabis'.

    Im a cannabis user the police know im a cannabis user i do not hide the fact that i use it, I also Work with them to remove the people that cause harm through the sale of addictive drugs including cannabis a contradiction you may say or that I'm protecting myself and source, in reality I and many people like me are regulating a system outside the law, somthing which is the responcability of the law but only if the retailer in on the radar of the police but unlike metal objects people dont show up on radars.

    Cannabis did have its very own political party the LCA which although now no longer runs remains active. http://www.lca-uk.org/ may I suggest people read a little about them as it will give a much broader picture of the problems both users and none users face. The picture most do not see as we are only ever given facts and figures information that is approved according to the law and the home office. Not to advocate but to understand that laws must change, harms reduced and most of all with cannabis children protected!!!.

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  • 84. At 9:22pm on 15 May 2009, newspaceman wrote:

    Hiya Joan, it is drivel you write, in my humble opinion, because it appears to result from the paranoia in your mind that : "a very huge portion of average citizens" sell drugs.

    Yet you cannot quantify, or prove, this statement yet somehow try to rationalise your "facts" by asking me to seek a local drug dealer who will identify these nefarious characters, to me, willy nilly, NQA

    If this is the case, why have you not done the same, and then simply identified the characters to your local dibble, who will have no doubt raided (and thus imprisoned) these main players.

    It would appear, as stated, that you make up nonsense to suit your poisoned views, and, furthermore, that you identify anyone who rejects your idiotic views as a drug dealer/taker/user.

    I think my initial questions to you were round about comment 36, I cannot be bothered looking back, but it was something to do with parenting - and your ignorant/media engrained views on it.

    You need to mellow out and wake up to reality

    cheers

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  • 85. At 11:41pm on 15 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Newsspaceman1,
    Why all the anger? It's just a conversation. If you need statistics just look up the number of people arrested on drug convictions. I can send you American statistics if you want but then the U.S. is much bigger and probably has a bigger drug problem than the U.K.

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  • 86. At 11:52pm on 15 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Chris_X,
    I sent you a web link but it's in the moderation cue. I don't know if the
    BBC will publish it since they have already let others through. The link was in Spanish. You'll have to dig a bit to find the info but you can find it if you look. The Mafia spies are out in force today. I better shut up now.

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  • 87. At 00:13am on 16 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Newspaceman1
    It was about parents reaching their full potential. Can you honestly say that parents addicted to drugs have reached their full potential and been good role models to their children? Parents do not understand the harm they cause to their children when they're on drugs. Most parents think they can hide their addictions but most can't then they wonder why their children are so addicted to drugs.I think life is hard enough for children with all of the demands of school and society. Why would a parent heap on even more confusion at a point when boys and girls are dealing with their own sexuality, fitting in with friends, dealing with academic and family pressures etc. Parents need to resolve their own issues before they can be good parents to their children. Why complicate this important period in a child's life?

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  • 88. At 12:13pm on 16 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Joan your arguments are flawed on many counts.
    Fat parents
    Designer lable parents
    single working parents

    all fail to provide children with the correct social balance, yet you argue that only parents with drug use fail thier children.

    Tell me is the current attatude to people who use drugs recreationaly and NÓT Alcohol any better than telling ethnic people they dont belong in this country because they live a different lifestyle to you?

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  • 89. At 4:47pm on 16 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    london707, the exact statistic depends on which drugs you are talking about legalising:

    In the UK 41% of 16 year olds have used cannabis. 5.2% of 15 to 64 year olds have used cocaine.[figures from Abnormal and clinical psychology By Paul Bennett, page 392]

    49% of the UK population over the age of 19 believe that cannabis should be legal.

    "By democratic definitions this is not the majority of the population breaking a law." A working democracy isn't just about rule of the majority - it also has to take in to account significant minority views and these votes can swing close elections. There is a difference between England's winner-takes-all voting systems, and proportional representation, but in theory politicians should be responsive to minority views. And 49% is a significant minority!

    How can the police be effective in policing cannabis when 49% of the adult population don't support their actions? If you do the numbers, that's 25 million people in the UK who don't want cannabis to be illegal, and 2 million people who have tried cocaine (who presumably want it to be legal, and presumably there are more, like myself, who haven't tried it, but don't think it should be illegal).

    We can all agree that we don't want money flowing to criminal gangs - however, this is exactly what happens now. The term "War on Drugs" did not originate with Bush - in fact, the "war" was initiated by Nixon in 1969. After almost four decades of the war, and tens of thousands of lives lost and wasted, what has been achieved? Are drugs less available? No, drugs are available in every British city and town. Are drugs more expensive? No, the cost has fallen continuously. Is money still flowing to criminal gangs? Yes. Do government intervention programmes have an effect? Usually not, sometimes yes, but even then the effect is only short lived (see McMafia). What is the point in spending money on something that has a debatable effect in the short term, and no effect in the mid-to-long term?

    You misinterpreted my statements about totalitarian governments. Britain is not a totalitarian state, and that is precisely why the war on drugs can't be won. The only states that have ever eliminated drugs from people's lives have been totalitarian ones. In a state where citizens have rights and freedoms, you can't enforce a law that a significant percentage of the population are against.

    Even the United Nations is re-considering its stance on drugs - [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] from the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy (which includes former Presidents of Brazil, Columbia and Mexico) acknowledges that drug prohibition and the war on drugs is a complete failure, that it funds criminal gangs, and concludes by calling for gradual decriminalisation starting with cannabis.

    And I note that nobody has made an attempt to answer my question: Why alcohol should be legal whilst less harmful drugs are illegal? Of 20 drugs surveyed [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] alcohol ranks 5th in terms of the harm it causes - and that data was compiled before the recent developments linking alcohol consumption with dementia - which when taken into account would possibly make alcohol the most dangerous drug available, either legally or illegally. So could someone please explain why alcohol should be treated differently? What special properties does a molecule of alcohol possess that means it should be legal? Or do the prohibitionists commenting on this article also want to ban alcohol?

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  • 90. At 6:19pm on 16 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    In my previous post I included a link to the document "Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift" published on the United Nations General Assembly Special Session web site; I have no idea why an official web site of the United Nations was not considered suitable for linking here. Google for "Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift" if you're interested in the article. Amusingly, the other removed "unsuitable" link was to a previous Mark Easton article on bbc.co.uk - it is already linked in #61.

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  • 91. At 11:27pm on 16 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear Community Criminal,
    In your professional judgement, how many people are supporting families by selling drugs, say within a mile radius of where you live or a neighborhood where drug dealers reside? I'm just really curious since newspaceman1 thinks I'm making it all up?

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  • 92. At 11:20am on 17 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

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

  • 93. At 11:34am on 17 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    sorry Joan they wont let me say.... As it makes a farce of the things we are told by the government....

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  • 94. At 11:55am on 17 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    Joan, The research suggests that very few dealers of illegal drugs could afford to support a family. The vast majority of dealers work for below minimum wage, in a job with a high mortality rate (around 50 times that of a timber cutter, which is officially acknowledged as the most dangerous job in the U.S.). The average salary of a city crack dealer in the U.S. is $3.30 an hour, and they have a 25% chance of being killed in any given year. There is a chapter about the economics of illegal drug dealing in the book "Freakonomics" by American economist Steven Levitt, it's an interesting read (or google for "Why do crack dealers still live with their moms?" to find a video presentation by Levitt on that precise topic).

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  • 95. At 12:03pm on 17 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    There's an interesting article in April's issue of Time magazine, online here, titled "Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?". As a result of decriminalising cannabis, cocaine and heroin, drug use has declined, the HIV infection rate has fallen, and addicts who would previously have been thrown in jail are now in drug treatment programmes instead.

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  • 96. At 12:20pm on 17 May 2009, Chris_X wrote:

    Somehow the BBC machinery managed to mess up the TIME magazine link in my previous post, try this:

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1893946,00.html or Google for "Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?" link

    The Cato Institutes white paper on Portugal's decriminalisation is at:

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080 or google for "Drug decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies" link

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  • 97. At 12:21pm on 17 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    ill shorten my list

    30+ cannabis dealers
    5-8 cocaine dealers
    lots of pill dealers
    average 6 mobile crack dealers

    very few live on income with cannabis as its to fund own use
    half the cocaine do live well on income
    no money in pills they sell for 25 pence on average
    crack well who knows.
    This year alone we have had 5 heroin dealers bust.

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  • 98. At 1:46pm on 17 May 2009, giannitedesco wrote:

    Mark Easton states in his article World Cocaine Market in Retreat that SOCA has been under pressure to prove it's effectiveness in what is often referred to as the war on drugs. For this purpose SOCA voluntarily disclosed that it has used undercover work to prevent wholesale supplies of cocaine from reaching the UK drug market. A SOCA press release (in the form of an exclusive disclosure to Easton) tells us that some 10 tonnes of cocaine was seized at the end of 2008 and that wholesale prices of cocaine have risen from £35,000 per kg 2 years ago to £45,000 per kg currently. Although it is also stated some of that price rise may be due to fluctuations in currency markets.

    Drugscope also inform us that the street price of cocaine on the UK market has not been significantly affected and purity has declined markedly in response to the shortage of wholesale supply. It is noted that some adulterants may be toxic. The obvious conclusion is that drug prohibition and law enforcement operations are exposing cocaine consumers to an unnecessary health risk. However the article stops short of stating this fact clearly, perhaps because it is so obvious. Critique is tightly constrained to pointing out that trying to limit the supplies of illegal drugs is an unsustainable tactic. However since the tactic is apparently only succeeding at increasing the harm caused by prohibited drugs, it is not clear why anyone would wish for these results to be sustained.

    The article contains 752 words in 24 paragraphs:
    o 625 words in 19 paragraphs are expended on repeating the SOCA press release and other government sources uncritically.
    o 111 words in 4 paragraphs are expended on quoting a neutral source, DrugScope, stating the obvious that drug suppliers make up for short term fluctuations in wholesale supply by adulterating the product.
    o 16 words in 1 paragraph are expended to assert that critics exist who question the sustainability of law enforcement operations. These critics are apparently nameless.
    o Conspicuously absent is any serious analysis of the current government policy: prohibition itself.

    Eastons blog entry on this topic asks Why did the former spook who heads SOCA give me exclusive details of his organisation's apparent success in the fight against cocaine smugglers? Since the exclusive details are reported to the public in a context devoid of any serious criticism, I do not see any great mystery here. A more fitting question might be: how can a government official who is on a public relations mission be taken at face value by a reporter who is responsible to the citizenry for critically assessing government policy?

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  • 99. At 5:20pm on 17 May 2009, newspaceman wrote:

    Hiya Joan, thanks for the response. Re your post 87, you wrote:

    "I think life is hard enough for children with all of the demands of school and society."

    Maybe you are getting somewhere here as to the reason for drink and drug abuse, but you dont realise it, somehow.

    In post 91, you ask community criminal for his "professional" input. He supplies a numerical list of "dealers" yet gives no info. as to the population of his area etc. He also states in post 97 that there are "lots of pill dealers", then in the same post that there "is no money in pills"

    So why would lots of dealers be selling them ?

    Utter drivel, yet again. Your ignorance on the subject is laughable, as is CC's.

    cheers

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  • 100. At 7:09pm on 17 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    No I say there is no money in pills because the isnt yet in the liverpool area they are very popular.

    I did give info in the post that was removed but as i was highlighting criminal activity it was removed. hence why i said ill shorten my list.

    all this that i have stated occures with a mile of my house in egremont Wirral. or maybe you would like the names as well?

    there was 2 heroin dealers in the road i live in 3 people dealing cannabis one only 15 years old all removed through the help of the police and community.

    on wed this week 3 people were arrested for pills 2 of them 14 years old the other 47 years old.

    How many drug dealers have you personly helped to remove from your area Newspaceman1?

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  • 101. At 7:34pm on 17 May 2009, Joan Olivares wrote:

    Dear newspaceman1,
    So basically you condone drug abuse because you think life is a struggle? Isn't that the whole point of existence? Hello! Am I missing something here?

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  • 102. At 8:15pm on 17 May 2009, newspaceman wrote:

    No, I accept people abusing drugs as a natural by-product of the "struggle" you talk about.

    I don't see life being a stuggle as "the whole point of existence" - maybe that is the point you, as you state, are missing.

    cc, none, why bother, another will pop up - you are missing the point of demand and supply.

    cheers though, maybe you could provide some more figures/proof, instead of writing drivel and relying on each other to try to prove a bag full of holes is waterproof.

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  • 103. At 01:08am on 18 May 2009, london707 wrote:

    chris_x, fair play with your further explanation

    Your figure of cocaine usage roughly equates to the one I used, which I would still argue is far too small a percentage of the population to present a major problem to the ethics of policing it as an illegal drug. The cannabis figure I will freely agree though is at a level whereby it is near on impossible for it to still be considered an illegal drug, and the UN proposals to decriminalise it make a considerable amount of sense, although judging by recent policing policy in the UK this is almost the case already. Although of course this is despite Parliament oscillating between the two arguments, which is perhaps the reason that there is such a high level of support for de-criminalising it as no firm stance in either direction has been made.

    I would argue though that the failures of many of the 'wars on drugs' have been a result of poor policy planning by those in charge, with the example most recently perhaps of the US refusing to bring in stricter gun control laws to prevent weapons ending up with the Mexican drug cartels, then wondering why the Mexican authorities are having so much trouble trying to stem the flow of drugs into the US...

    Nonetheless the UN message of an entirely new approach to dealing with drugs is an intriguing one, although I feel that while the idea of legalising Cannabis may prove effective and popular, some of the potentially more harmful drugs may not. But again no matter of the legality of the drugs in the consumer nations, the ethicality of the sourcing of those drugs should be very much taken into account.

    Alcohol is an interesting one to examine as in low levels of consumption it has virtually no ill effects and is often suggested to have positive qualities. The high levels of harm caused by alcohol are largely a result of its being so readily available, and in the case of the UK, it being at its cheapest price level in decades. The approach recommended by senior health officials is that of minimum pricing (suggested at 50p per unit), to prevent mass over consumption, binge drinking etc. as the current duty based strategy does little to increase the price of mass marketed alcohol and so reduce consumption. It is of course clouded by the social factor that it would be seen as elitist to impose a minimum price which would potentially mean that only those of a certain income level could afford alcohol. Which I believe is the argument given by Brown. In answer to your question as to why it is not illegal, this balance of damage done is almost certainly one factor, alcohol is also a very predictable drug which calms fears; although it probably has more to do with alcohol being a historically available drug for the UK, while many others have only become more widely available much more recently. A better question perhaps would be why tobacco is still legal in comparison to cannabis? To spin off that idea though, the smoking bans in place against tobacco are ever increasing... perhaps by the time cannabis is legalised it won't make a difference, because it will be nigh on impossible for anyone to smoke it should they so wish!

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  • 104. At 09:07am on 18 May 2009, DeirdreBoyd wrote:

    As any good businessperson will tell you: make a product available and its sales will soar. Not rocket science.

    Legal drugs (prescription, over the counter) harm more people than illicit ones. The data is available in reports from the All Party Parliamentary Drugs Misuse Group and the All Party Parliamentary Involuntary Tranquilliser Addiction Group.

    These two items alone prove that legalising harmful drugs increases harm. On top of that, alcohol costs the country £22billion (and counting)a year, overloads NHS beds and causes needless deaths and trauma to the children of heavy drinking parents.

    Tobacco costs the country even more, causing millions of deaths.

    One death should be an argument against legalising drugs. But hundreds, thousands and millions do not seem to be enough for drug pushers/legalisers. How many need to die? How many children need to be orphaned or damaged? NOT using drugs should be the norm, with users the exception - not the opposite.

    Deirdre Boyd
    CEO - Addiction Recovery Foundation
    www.addictiontoday.org

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  • 105. At 10:03am on 18 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    Deirdre Boyd.

    My brother died a heroin addict yet im for legalising and state control of drugs. Because he had no real treatment and was criminalised from the outset he caused a great deal of chaos in his short life. Hounded to death by dealers.

    Is that what you support? as by not being prepaired to look at alternatives to street trade many people like yourselves while doing good and helping a few are also doing a massive amount of damage to our communitys and children.

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  • 106. At 02:06am on 19 May 2009, Adam_Wallace wrote:

    Deirdre Boyd,

    To state that "mak[ing] a product available and its sales will soar. Not rocket science" as implying those who support a reform in our drug policies desire the free marketing of all currently illegal drugs is disingenuous, if not dishonest.

    Legalisation of drugs does NOT mean the supermarket cut price crack shelf, or the heroin cafe. It means making a legal, regulated supply available of a commodity that up to half a million people in the UK are problematically dependent on, & ending their reliance on a criminal supply network for their dose in order to put an end to the chain of criminality, violence, illness & death this black-market has spawned in our society. Caused not by the drugs Mrs Boyd, but by the criminality associated with their illegal supply.

    The British National Formulary may have a section on the legal prescribing of heroin & cocaine to addicts via specially licensed consultant psychiatrists; and the continued prescription of heroin & cocaine was what Professor Brain intended to happen when he recommended in 1967 that specialist Drug Dependency Units be established at community hospitals, but as anyone working in the drug field today can tell you, the reality is less than 500 addicts in the UK still receive prescription for heroin, [& some of those are in their seventies & older today], and less than a dozen are prescribed cocaine.

    Abstinence from drugs of any kind, be they cocaine, opiates, nicotine, alcohol or caffeine is an ideal lifestyle obtainable by individuals, & to be encouraged by wider society; not mandated by a statute criminalising possession of one set of substances, & liberal & personalised for another the state has set its seal of approval upon, [no matter how unscientific their choice may be in terms of harm caused].

    Prohibition of alcohol showed clearly the relationship between a thriving black market & an exponential growth in crime, both organised & petty. Prohibition of drugs, should teach, if you are paying attention, that criminalising substances we do not approve of, as well as creating crime & violence, also makes the experimentation with those substances attractive to exactly those we most hope to dissuade from doing so: impressionable teenagers who see the illegality of drugs as forbidden fruit, & the subculture that exists as a side effect of their illegality an attraction to join in.

    So what is the answer. Holland has shown that the separation of the cannabis market from other drugs, by their regulated sales outlets: the "coffee shops" of Amsterdam fame, reduce experimentation with harder drugs significantly. The average age of a Dutch heroin addict is thirty five & aging, whereas in the UK it is twenty three & getting younger. This is because UK cannabis smokers are forced to purchase their supply from those who may well also sell other more dangerous drugs as well. Regulated supplies are extremely efficient at preventing this cross-marketing. The Dutch coffee shop owner knows he will lose his licence, & thus business, if he allows sales of other drugs in the premises.

    The Swiss heroin clinics that allow hardened addicts who have failed detoxification & methadone substitution to receive the heroin dose they require under supervision seem to offer a solution to this enormous problem, far more serious in terms of harm than cannabis smoking.

    By restricting consumption to on site supervision only, it is ensured that not one dose of the prescribed heroin is passed on, & by making the addict travel to a clinic rather than use the drug at home an eventual incentive to reduce or stop using altogether is put in place from the start of treatment. The statistics from Switzerland prove their effectiveness. An 80% percent reduction in urban crime rates, 75% of those treated by this system have reduced their prescribed heroin dose, & are no longer homeless, & are employed or studying within 18 months.

    Those who push abstinence from drugs as being the only acceptable option, are very often from the same fold as those who sold us drug prohibition in the first place. Their beliefs are guided by religious conviction as often as not. That we might in the Edwardian age have succumbed to the idea that opium was a "heathen drug", is understandable. Today we hopefully know different, & find the system that allows the legal taxed sale of alcohol & tobacco alongside the criminalisation of cannabis smoking, & non-availability of effective heroin addiction treatment a travesty.

    Continuing to cling to the idea that drugs must remain illegal despite all the evidence that their prohibition causes more harm than their use, & the proof from anti-smoking campaigns that we can successfully convince people to stop using a highly addictive substance, without the need to criminalise the possession of tobacco or those who smoke it, shows that we can safely abandon this tragic & failed attempt at suppression without the entire world turning to heroin because we open clinics & prescribing it to those already addicted.

    Mrs Boyd shows her true colours when she equates those who demand drug reform with drug pushers.

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  • 107. At 08:21am on 19 May 2009, John Ellis wrote:

    They make money out of drugs why would they want change?
    More profit in dealing with the results of the problem than dealing with the actual issues at hand. They have stoped nothing for all the bloated talk of doing good, children are still exposed to drugs.

    If such people want to do good then remove the cause of the illness, such people liken to the pope telling third world cathlics that condoms will send them to hell.

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