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Free Speech: Should all drugs be legalised?

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James Emtage James Emtage | 14:55 UK time, Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Image of syringe   and surrounding drugs

A recent Global Drug Survey found that more Brits have tried cannabis than they have energy drinks, and with one in five young people admitting to taking a ‘mystery white powder’ without knowing what it is, we asked four young writers to answer this question:

Should all drugs be legalised?

Here’s what they had to say…

Blog contributor - Elliot Gonzalez

Elliot Gonzalez

In a word, NO.

Why do I say this? Well, because if we were to legalise drugs then it would send out the wrong message about them, especially to youngsters.

It seems too much of the focus around education in drugs is more to do with getting off of drugs rather than explaining the crime that goes with addiction or the damage they do to your body. We all know that smoking damages your lungs and that drinking damages your liver but what exactly certain drugs do to our body is not commonly known or more importantly taught at a young age.

Also, young smokers are statistically more likely to try marijuana as the next ‘illegal’ thing to do and I feel that by legalising certain drugs such as marijuana, then other harder illegal substances might become more desirable as the next illegal substance that youngsters want to experiment with.

Blog Contributor - Franklyn Addo

Franklyn Addo

Despite current legislation prohibiting drugs, drug abuse is a problem, ranging from recreational use to long lasting addictions and underpinning many crimes perpetrated. The question at the epicentre of drug discussions is whether they should be legalised or not. This question hosts many ethical implications and the policies implemented will have significant subsequent impact.

The ultimate factor of consideration is the medical implications of drugs. The legalisation of drugs with higher medical implications is not a good idea, as the initial boom would cause many deaths and is unethical. The legalisation of drugs with fewer medical implications, however, may be beneficial as it makes supply more controlled and would be instrumental in putting an end to illegal drug couriering.

Once such drugs are legalised, people can be educated on their medical implications and after an initial boom in use, people may be deterred from them as it becomes less socially desirable. An example of this is in the decline of cigarette smoking.

Blog contributor - Teju Adeleye

Teju Adeleye 

I believe that the time is right for discussing legalising drugs, yes it's controversial and distinctions will need to be drawn between different drugs.

If we think about the “producer nations” of the common drugs like cocaine, the brutal truth is horrific.

Headless corpses on the street, bodies swinging from bridges, children shot dead by lawless drug lords - not scenes from horror films but everyday life for people across Latin America.

The drugs trade is one of the most profitable in the world, but because it is illegal, violence is the only means to protect and secure its profit.  

It destroys so much of civilian life: it corrupts society, it destroys human rights, and it kills our environment.  Entire nations are at the mercy of drug cartels, and this needs to stop.

Legalising and regulating drugs is a radical idea, but it would bring stability to these nations, whilst stopping money being wasted on the drugs war we’ve already lost.  It would generate legitimate profit and focus on the health impact and not on criminality.

We have a global responsibility to stop these drug lords. People will never stop using drugs, so we need to legalise, educate, regulate and control.

Blog contributor - Priyanka Mogul

Priyanka Mogul

Different classes of drugs need to be dealt with differently. The UK has the highest rate of young people consuming cannabis. I believe that certain Class B and C drugs, such as cannabis, should be decriminalised.

By making less harmful drugs legal, the government is effectively tightening supervision and control of the consumption of these drugs. It will also make addicts less hesitant to get the help they need to recover, whereas at the moment, they live in fear of being arrested if they come forward. Young people will also be less hesitant to approach an adult if they are feeling bad effects after consuming a drug like cannabis.

Simply arresting these people will not solve the drug problem. Rather than spending money on locking them away in already overcrowded prisons, they could be spending money on rehabilitation services.


It’s a tough call. Where do you stand: should all drugs be legalised?

Hop on to our Facebook, tweet us your thoughts or leave your comments below and you could see your opinions being included in our next live TV show where we will be talking about drugs.

We’re coming from Bristol on May 16th at 8pm – make sure you’re watching, and if you want to be in the live studio audience then click here for more info.  

These four writers have contributed to publications such as The Guardian, The Ecologist, Time Out London and Live Magazine. If you would like to write a blog piece for Free Speech, e-mail us now with a little hello.

BBC Free Speech will be live from Bristol on Thursday 16th May at 8pm. 

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  • Comment number 1.

    This is a question that has an obvious answer. No.
    Are we talking in terms of supplyor the consumption of drugs?

  • Comment number 2.

    ........err no! I can't believe this is even up for discussion! If the question was should addicts receive help or jail then that would be different. So where are addicts supposed to get their money from, the same place they get it from now OTHERS! If we legalize heroine then we may as well legalize theft and forget about employment how will people be able to work when they're smacked off their tits!?

  • Comment number 3.

    n terms of Decriminalising, it doesn't change the problem of human drug addiction. It's a global constant going nowhere, all it does is remove the criminals from the supply / distribution chain and move it into the realms of legitimate capitalism.
    It's already a multi-£billion industry, one of the largest in the UK?, but one that gives nothing back as it pays no taxes. By taxing drug use the NHS costs would be reduced, and by cleaning up the quality the burden would be hugely reduced as most drug deaths, injuries etc are down to unpredictable dosage and toxic substances used to cut it / make it more profitable for dealers - this is a major cause of liver, kidney etc disease and is a huge burden on the NHS (as of course is alcohol & tobacco, but that pays for it's way via tax). It's actually a simple business problem in the end. Is the pompous whinging and moralising of the right really worth losing billions in taxation over? The underlying usage problem will exist regardless. Hence my approval....

  • Comment number 4.

    Yes drugs should be legalised, regulated and taxed. Anyone who researchs into the topic will soon see the benefits of legalisation far outweight the consequences of prohibition.

    I, and I believe most advocates of legalisation, are not talking about just allowing any drug to be sold like chocolate in the shop as most pro-prohibition people like to make out we are.

    With legalisation would come quality contol - less deaths due to unknown dosage, no rat poison etc in the drugs. The drugs could also have health warnings, advice, and dosage instructions on the packets.

    Drugs will be cheaper - while drugs are cheaper today than they ever have been, they are still very high compared to alcohol or tobbaco. This means that for a serious addict they need lots of money to buy their fix. As many addicts do not have jobs they have to resort to crime or prositution to support their habit. If they were legal they would be cheaper and crime might go down as they dont need as much money.

    no money going to criminals - criminals make billions of illegal drugs, its an easy way to make money. taking this huge source of money away from them will make them much less powerful. Organised crime will have less money to bribe officials or buy powerful weapons. The gang lifestyle will look considerably less attractive to a young adult/child if they can't afford flash jewlery/cars.

    Police can focus on real crime - the police's time is already streched. with cuts the police need to focus of crimes that actually have a victim - rape, murder, assault, theft etc. Wasting police time and money of drugs busts which have little impact on drug use is ridiculous.

    When there is a big drug bust, crime and violence go up - say there was a big heroin bust. the dealers go to jail, creating job opportunities for lots of other people. They fight over this and there may be collateral damage. the price of heroin goes up as there is less around. The bust does nothing to cure the addicts of their addiction. They still need heroin. they need more money to buy the heroin, they mug/burgle more to raise the money.

    Ethically, the government should not have the right to tell us what we can do with our own bodies. Yes the government can advise, like it does with alcohol and tobbaco, but it should not be able to arrest someone to 'save' them from themselves. People moan about tax increases on tobbaco making the UK a nanny state, that is nothing compared to locking people away for using certain drugs, which are probably less harmful anyway that alcohol and tobaco.

    Ill be quicker...

    Many drugs are less harmful than alcohol - people may shift to safer drugs reducing overall harm.

    There will never be a drug free world - even if illegal drugs disappeard, people would still use alcohol/tobbaco/caffeine/the new legal high.

    the only drug that has consistenly declining use is tobbaco, this was done with sensibly regulation, education and done without locking people up.

    if you lock someone up/charge someone with a drug offence, that will stay on their criminal record, affecting how well they can get a job etc. this doesn't set anyone up to live drug free.

    drug war is racist - many more ethnic minorities are arrested for drugs even though they have the same use levels and white people.

    and more but i'm running out of time.

    Prohibition is criminalisting and killling our youth.

    I think that alcohol needs to be more strictly regulated, such as no advertisement and health warnings etc.

    I think some softer drugs should be sold like tobacco.

    I think others/ possibly all should require a visit to a drug specialist, who will talk to you about the drug you want to take. You would then get a card, sort of like a prescription, which will allow you to buy that drug from a pharmacist or a special drug pharmacy.

    At the pharmacy their can be advice if you need help, staff who will try and stop you using drugs rather than a dealer who wants you to use stronger drugs. People can inject in a safe envirnoment etc.

    Drug legalisation would solve many problems, not just in the UK, but the whole world. Countries which produce or supply drugs, like mexico, are going down the pan. nearly 50000 deaths in the last 5 years, and wholes states controlled by drug lords.

    Legalise, regulate, tax and educate.

  • Comment number 5.

    Silly question that doesn't help the debate about legalisation

  • Comment number 6.

    I am impressed with the effort some commentors have made to put their point across.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    What is this country coming to........

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Of course they should. At least everything but Herione and Crystal Meth. I regularly use recreational drugs (cocaine, MDMA, cannabis) and the effects they have on my body are far less extreme than when I drink alcohol.

    I have never seen an angry person on recreational drugs, unlike alcohol when even the most docile harmless person can turn into a monster. With cocaine and ecstasy you are still completely in control of your actions.

    The vast majority of those who wish to keep strict controls on drugs have no doubt never really experienced them. They are far less dangerous than the drug they probably all consume - alcohol.

    The main problem is the baggage that comes with consuming illegal substances - having to purchase of strangers in occasionally shady places. If they were legalised the main danger would be taken away.

    I find it sad that thousands, if not millions, of young normally law abiding and good citizens are being criminalised for consuming stimulants less dangerous than those legally available.

  • Comment number 12.

    Yes, all drugs should be legalised, for a number of reasons.

    1) Having drugs sold on a legal, regulated market would allow them to be subject to quality control and thereby eliminate most of the dangers associated with drugs that are sold on the street. It would also help to prevent the sale of drugs to minors, since drug dealers don't ask for ID.

    2) Drugs sold legally would be cheaper, so fewer users would be driven to crime in order to fund their addictions.

    3) Eliminating the black market monopoly on the supply of drugs would deprive many criminals of their main source of revenue, and thus reduce crime. It would thereby spare thousands of people in South America the misery of drug-related violence.

    4) Freeing up the resources that are currently used to enforce drug laws would allow the police to deal better with more serious crimes, and would mean more resources for the treatment of drug addicts.

    5) There's no clear evidence that criminalising users deters them from taking drugs. Drug use internationally doesn't correlate in any obvious way with each country's drug policy.

    6) Even if a 'war on drugs' could conceivably work, for it to be effective it would have to involve much greater state interference, widespread violation of civil liberties and draconian sanctions enacted against vulnerable people.

    7) Throwing otherwise non-criminal users into prison brings them into contact with the hardened criminal fraternity. Also, the general association with criminality that is involved in buying black market drugs makes soft drug users more likely to turn to hard drugs, and makes users dependent on unscrupulous criminals for their habit (e.g. women who work as prostitutes in order to receive heroin from their pimps).

    8) There's something unjust about the fact that alcohol, a drug that ruins thousands of lives, should be legal while less dangerous drugs are criminalised.

    9) It's the only policy consistent with individual liberty - the right to do what one likes with one's own body. Less paternalism can only be a good thing.

  • Comment number 13.

    Do you see how far the penny has fallen. The British public was reluctantly coerced into backing this American war on drugs under the promise it would be over in 6 years time. 36 years later we have a higher rate of drugs consumption than we have ever had. The market is completely controlled by criminal gangs who exploit the weak, vulnerable and underage and contaminate their products with potentially fatal additives. We criminalise 10% of our otherwise law abiding population and in doing so they become disillusioned in their respect for the government and law- it is an open secret that the dangerous increase in crime in this country is closely connected with the prohibition. Many intellectuals ranging from Einstein to Sir David Attenborough to imperial college London researchers to police commissioners have called for an end to this prohibition madness yet our government continues to squander billions on this pointless unwinnable war on its own people which damages society, the economy and individuals. I ask you, the British public, how long will we allow this scourge to continue?? Meanwhile other nations are waking up and beginning to alter legislation and with good results. The evidence is mounting up against the prohibitionists and it seems humanity will come to its senses and re-legalise so why is the UK waiting for so long to jump on the economic bandwagon? Why not be the first nation to push for true legalisation of all drugs and allow British firms to dominate the industry before foreign organizations do (between cultivation, manufacture, transportation, quality control, sale and administration there are many career opportunities). This is the way things are heading: shall we be the ones with our heads buried in the sand afraid that any change will have the possibility of somehow leading to a worse situation than where we are already or shall we listen to the evidence available make the right choice and benefit from our decision.

  • Comment number 14.

    The question is based upon a lie we were old sold. There is no such thing as an 'illegal drug' and the question is never can drugs be de-criminalised or legalised. The law controls activities by persons, declaring some with some drugs to be illegal actions - it is you who are illegal not the drug. It's a vital distinction. This is essentially a civil liberty issue. The debate is being incorrectly framed to concern 'legalising drugs' - this is a complete impossibility because the belief that we can talk about 'illegal drugs' when in truth no such thing exists, is part of the problem. I am not making this up - there is no such thing as an 'illegal drug' - the law can only control human actions with respect to objects. We are talking about the issue in reverse.

    We must address ALL forms of drug MISuse, the starting point is not cannabis or any particular drug, but the persons causing harms with ANY and ALL forms of drug MISuse.

    For controlled drug users there is an indivisibility on various levels, firstly drugs are lumped together thus the conflation of use and misuse removes all human agency. We can never approach from a drug centric basis, it must start with a human outcome being addressed before it works its way down to a conversation about a drug. They shouldn't split drug users into legal or illegal, they aint splitting drugs, they are dividing us amongst ourselves and denying all our possibilities.

    The big question is who invented the lie 'legal drugs'? Who said the smokers and drinkers and their dealers were exempt from the operation of the law?

  • Comment number 15.

    Moderator - Please delete word 'old' in first sentence of last post

  • Comment number 16.

    Teju has this right. The drug industry is an infinitely greater problem than drug consumption.

  • Comment number 17.

    If they became legalised wouldn't more people be having them, people would end up thinking its okay to have them so more illnesses would rise from it !!!! No way should they be legalised!

  • Comment number 18.

    Drugs shouldn't be legalised at all, although most people's weed arguments say that it isnt harmful and hasnt killed anyone yet it is massively linked to mental illness and paranoia.

  • Comment number 19.

    We shouldn't have to make certain drugs illegal to portray them as bad, all drugs are good and bad depending how their used. Having some drugs illegal could make the regulated and legal drugs seem better for you, perhaps this is the reason why prescription drugs, alcohol and tobacco damage the largest amount of people. By regulating all drugs and not spending alot of money on the "war on drugs", money can be invested in rehabilitation to help those who have an addiction. I think alot of money should be put into educating children about habits and addiction and how to over power it so there is no need for rehab

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

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  • Comment number 23.

    Make drugs legal? Cool story bro, that's as beneficial as taking a fish out of water.

    I don't wish to belittle any of you, If what I'm saying seems like I am then sorry.

    Let's talk about the un-realist dream of 'weed will take away black markets'

    1) Price.

    The price of weed if legal would have a vast impact on its demand, like you have all said 'weed is not addictive!', you know that isn't helping your argument at all? The reason why alcohol and cigarettes are legal and have a high price is simple, they're addictive, this makes them an inelastic product, since weed is 'cheap' to make and is not an addictive substance then it would be an elastic good. So this means a high price would resort in to a low demand, so how would it have the vast number of revenue that you say it will have?

    2) Why would it have a high price?

    It would have a high price because of the costs that go in to production, as I said it's cheap to make yourself, but think of it on a large scale? Increasing cost in electrics and electricity, the cost of all the jobs that will need to go in to making weed and regulating it, costs of oil to fuel the company and to fuel the trucks that will ship the good, then after all this you have a tax added on to it, don't think for a second just because a 'drug' used for 'medical' reasons means that a company will say 'hell to it I'll supply it for a loss, help the world!', the drug companies are the most ruthless businesses out there, having patents on drugs for 20 years, no other company can make this drug, all because of profit, this in its self is a monopoly, still think 'legalising weed will take away a monopoly' if a pharmaceutical company can get their hands on a patent for any type of addition to 'medical weed' they will.

    3) Why do they need to make and supply it?

    They have to make and supply it because it needs to be regulated, if it's not regulated then it could be causing damage that we don't know about, look at the breast implants and think about what impact they have had on the 'NHS' now, think about how many people smoke weed, then think of damage it would cause if the same thing happened. So, with all this taken in to factor and how it is needed for a governing body is needed to regulate it, it will have a massive effect on prices and increase them, massively. So even though this is costly it will hopefully mean the supply is safe at all times, and it won't cause the NHS to have legal battles over 'medical weed'.

    4) Yeah we get it, what does this mean about monopolies?

    It's simple, if there is a high cost in the 'legal' use of weed then why would a drug-dealer then stop supplying it, just because it's legal? If they can supply it and keep supplying it even when it's legal wouldn't they then actually supply more, and the only thing that they would be doing is selling under a minimum price set by the government or not declare the trades of weed and the tax, which of course is illegal, and why wouldn't they do it, they already sell weed which is illegal why stop because of tax laws?

    This would then have no impact on the 'black market' if anything it's opening up a new one and making it easier to enter the market especially for suppliers, actually, I'm wrong, it would destroy any monopolies in place since barriers of entry will be taken away. But saying that would the 'top-players' just take over little 'small time' dealers or destroy them? Which again, is creating a barrier of entry to that market, which would just make a new monopoly...

    Making it legal will have an negative impact on the economy, not a positive one.

    I know weed has links to curing cancer, but, at the end of the day a cure for cancer means more people having to paid their pensions, we already need to lower them, if cancer had a cure what would happen to pensions?

  • Comment number 24.

    I am a medical consumer of cannabis and I really thought BBC3 Free Speech would have given at least 5 minutes of the debate towards its medical use, for me consuming cannabis has stopped me using 23 different tablets, its time the people of the UK realised that the UK government has fed us lies all this time and keep doing it, free speech should at least do a hour long episode on the medicinal values of cannabis, after all their 1000's that consume cannabis instead of draining the NHS for prescribed drugs


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