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Should drug use be decriminalised?

02:02 UK time, Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Decriminalising drug use could drastically reduce crime and improve health, the outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has said. Do you agree?

Sir Ian Gilmore said he had formed his view after seeing the problems caused by dirty needles and contaminated drugs a product not of the drugs themselves but of prohibition.

Sir Ian said these were his own views rather than those of the RCP, and added that he believed that drugs should still be regulated, but the laws on misuse of drugs should be reviewed.

The government said it did not believe that decriminalisation was the right approach adding that they wanted to help addicts come off drugs for good.

What is the right approach to tackling drug abuse? Is Sir Ian right, is prohibition the problem? Should there be a review of the drugs laws in the UK?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


Page 1 of 13

  • Comment number 1.

    Sir Ian Gilmore talks sense and the Government should listen.

    Why not help addicts to come off drugs for good? Of course we should offer that to anyone who wants to purge themselves - we do it already for alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs anyway. But Sir Ian was talking of the 'dirty side' of the drugs industry, the collateral that brings drugs to all of us, sometimes literally, whether we want them or not.

    And he is right. Decriminalising will spell liberty for a whole host of people currently plagued by 'our' drug problems.

  • Comment number 2.

    All drugs should be decriminalised and obtainable from proper outlets. The drugs would then be 'clean' and could be taxed. The crime rate would fall too. Why should weed be illegal but tobacco legal? Banning things just makes them more appealing.

  • Comment number 3.

    Of course certain drugs should be legal, like Cannabis. There is not one shred of evidence that Cannabis does any harm whatsoever, and the goverment has spent 40 years trying to dig one up. Sure you can isolate the odd case of suicide or mental problems, but these things happen anyway. Ten years ago a collegue of mine took his own life after his wife left him. He drank a bottle of whisky then jumped off a bridge but nobody's talking about making alchohol illegal, even though it's responsible for thousands of deaths and a huge proportion of crime. Tobacco kills 250,000 people in Britain every year. Not one death has ever been recorded due to cannabis. We need a government that is going to listen to qualified people instead of saying "we don't believe this is the right approach". Why don't they believe it and how are they qualified to make that statement? It's utter rubbish. The same drug dealers importing heroin are the ones selling and importing Cannabis. Prohibition obviously doesn't work and simply funds crime, wastes police time and governments over the last 40 years have said the same old rubbish. It's time for change.

  • Comment number 4.

    I would rather trust my health to a doctor - than a politician. Nuff said!
    This is just so clear to even the simplest of folk that the politicians do themselves no favours denying the glaringly obvious.

  • Comment number 5.

    I have no idea what the right approach is but I'm not convinced that the current one is working so a review seems like a fine idea

  • Comment number 6.

    Finally - someone actually addressing the problem rather than brushing it under the carpet of illegality and pretending that will make it go away.

  • Comment number 7.

    Yes, drug use should be decriminalised, because:
    a) We're spending a fortune on policing the illegal drug trade, and bringing offenders through the justice system, and imprisoning them, often foreign nationals and asylum seekers
    b) Drugs could be sold at the same prices as now, and taxed. The tax and money saved would easily cover education, prevention and rehabilitation programmes
    c) Drugs currently fund the underworld
    d) Third world countries could be allowed to make a profit from an export, rather than being damaged as currently, e.g. Columbia, Mexico
    e) People would be given responsibility for themselves, rather than relying on a nanny state
    f) People would not have the stigma of a criminal record for minor drug offences
    g) Banning them hasn't worked! People can still get drugs if they want them.

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    "Yes they are right" The drug war is lost!!!! The world -wide drug gangs have won, as I have posted many times all drugs used for non medical purpose should be conroled, and sold with tax by chemist shops and made in government or private factorys {how many new jobs will that make ? } and the fall in crime, World-wide would be amazing and save millions in our taxpayers money petty crime would drop overnight? The spare money could be used for drug and alcohol rehab , and many social programs, This is much better than letting the low lifes drug dealers live like lords .

  • Comment number 10.

    Of course they should. Taking drugs is, in some sense, a personal choice. Being a victim of peripheral drug crime is to be an innocent bystander. See the article yesterday from the BBC on the situation in Mexico. Decriminalizing drugs could go a long way to remedying this and provide a legitimate source of revenue for countries where they are produced.

  • Comment number 11.

    The first duty of a Government is to protect its citizens from harm. In abandoning the drugs trade to criminals; in placing their own convenience/ prejudices/ moralist postures above public health in their priorities, and in attempting to enforce a duopoly of the killers tobacco and alcohol as the only two legally available recreational drugs; Governments of both colours have comprehensively reneged on that primary obligation.
    Until 1971, Cannabis BPC was a licensed medicine in the UK. When it was banned, the ill- health which it formerly treated didn't disappear, just the therapeutic option for treatment. 100 million Americans can today lawfully obtain and use cannabis for the medical treatment of a wide variety of common disorders including chronic pain conditions. In the UK, people are being sent to jail for using this medicine.
    The Government is a traitor.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think it's worth a try. Nothing else seems to have worked up to now and I feel that we are letting our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children and neighbours down, if we don't at least try all possible routes — no matter how radical they may seem!

    The life of an addict is a very difficult one and people look to the mayhem around an addict, but don't really seem to see just how terrible it is for the addict.

    Just my thoughts, perhaps I'm ill-informed...?

  • Comment number 13.

    No, drugs should not be decriminalised. My wife worked on a physiciatric intensive care unit (PICU) and 99.9% of the patients admitted to the unit had drug use in their history, cannabis use was present in all cases. It seems the higher up one attains the further from reality one becomes.

  • Comment number 14.

    Prohibition doesn't work. Making drugs legal will destroy the "drugs industry" saving taxpayers the huge amounts of money currently being wasted on ineffective policcing.

  • Comment number 15.

    Leave drug laws alone. The problems for the criminal justice system is alcohol, violence ans poor parenting. Sort these out first.

  • Comment number 16.

    Heroin has been around in this country for over 100 years. Its use rocketed after it was made illegal in the 1960's.
    The case for decriminalising drugs is so strong that it does make you wonder if those that oppose it are somehow part of the criminal caste who benefit so much from their current status.
    It might even make the war in Afghanistan less futile by removing a large portion of the Taliban's funding - we could grow all our own heroin here!

  • Comment number 17.

    I disagree that drug misuse should be made legal, what should happen is the fines should be made prohibitive and jail sentences START at about 10 years. This, hopefully, will deter the traffickers. If drugs were made legal, women would be drugged and raped and poisoning would become the preferred weapon for murderers. The only reason drug trafficking is so rife is the fact that a lot of money can be made with little risk of a serious fine or sentence.

  • Comment number 18.

    Of course drugs should be legalised. More than anything else, drug addiction is fueling crime in our society. If we are going to have addicts, then the least we can do is to ensure that they have a clean, safe supply of their drug of choice. Watch the burglaries drop then. An added bonus will be to put the gangsters who run the drugs trade out of business. Will this ever happen? Of course not; too many business are making good money from crime.

  • Comment number 19.

    Daisy chained in comment 1 is spot on. Criminilisation is of little use, particularly for a drug such as heroin which, by all accounts, is exceptionally addictive and one can be hooked on even one use. Spend the money saved on proper rehabilitation programmes and stop crowding prisons with trainee criminals. In the long term what has been achieved is the growth of an organised crime industry, which like in the US after prohibition ended will look at other sources of income, and the introduction of gun crime.

    Realistically, the problem is the daily Mail and its ilk will use every means in their arsenal to oppose any change.

  • Comment number 20.

    Drugs policy in the UK is based on the opinions of the Daily Mail editorials, and middle American morality.

    We've have Professor Nutt and the ACMD saying that our current drugs policy has the wrong focus, now the president of the Royal College of Physicians, but nothing will change, I mean, basing policy on reducing harm and improving the health of the nation, it's clearly a silly idea.

    Reducing the work load of the police force, freeing them from the hours and days spent prosecuting the end users, and co-incidentally destroying the revenue flow of the transcontinental trafficers, so that they have no money to pursue other hobbies like people trafficking, obviously stupid.

    I mean, politicians obviously have far better sources of information and advice than the experts, since they continuously come to the exact opposite solution.

    We're so lucky to have them looking out for us. And the pushers.

  • Comment number 21.

    People who are against decriminalisation never had anyone in the family who had a drug problem. Usually people change their tune quite quickly if this happens as they have to think about the 'victims'. Most drug users don't do it for the fun of it. I personally think that all drugs should get the same status. And this includes alcohol and tobacco. That would open many people's eyes. The biggest screamers against decriminalisation would probably realise that they have a glass of wine every single night. Probably with a cigar.

  • Comment number 22.

    The coalition government has promised to repeal "illiberal, intrusive and unnecessary" laws. There can be no better example of this than the laws against personal use and cultivation of cannabis, particularly for medicinal reasons.

    Prohibition is a failed, discredited policy. Drug laws have caused hugely more harm in our world than drugs themselves. Most organised crime and nearly all street crime is caused by drug laws. Our soldiers are dying in Afghanistan fighting an enemy financed by the illegal drugs trade. Why don't we just buy the whole damn crop for the next 10 years and put the Taliban out of business?

    Legalise, regulate, tax. You pull the rug from underneath organised crime. You remove the reason for.street crime. You save billions in law enforcement costs. You make billions in new tax revenue.

  • Comment number 23.

    Decriminalising drug use makes logical sense. The major caveat, however, is that it needs to be done in an intelligent way. Governments have a tendency to make snap decisions on perceived populist policies and then force a quick implementation that doesn't work.

    For this one, for example, one can expect a higher demand for rehabilitation services in the early days of the policy followed by a tapering off of the same to below current levels - appropriate infrastructure will need to be provided and then reallocated. Also, a provision for dealing with things like drug-driving needs to be considered. Safe places for addicts to partake of their drug of choice will be needed if society is ostensibly allowing the behaviour. The list goes on.

    Decriminalise by all means - it has been shown time and again to be more effective than prohibition - but this time, for once, do it in an intelligent and rational way.

  • Comment number 24.

    All drugs should be legalised, regulated, and taxed in the same way as alcohol and tobacco are. (ALL drugs, including so-called 'hard' ones.) Prohibition has utterly failed, and simply wastes billions of pounds in useless attempts at enforcement while driving the price up, making huge profits for organised crime - which disappear overseas or otherwise out of the taxable economy - and causes the vast majority of prostitution and property crime which themselves cost huge amounts in policing, prisons and insurance.

    You could not make up the stupidity of this if it hadn't somehow become the status quo. The cost to the country is colossal both in money and damage to people's lives, for no benefit whatever. Millions of people regularly take drugs and the fact that they're illegal seems to make no difference - you can get anything you want in any city in this country. If anything it harms the concept of the law itself, because users knowingly break it with a negligible chance of being caught and without feeling that they're actually doing anything wrong.

    Of course drugs are harmful, just like alcohol and tobacco, and they have well-known health costs. Legalisation wouldn't stop the harm that users do to themselves - but with properly controlled quality it would reduce some of it. It's not a question of drugs being bad or good, just that prohibition is completely counterproductive in dealing with the problem. It's time to admit that and do something about it.

    By the way, I am not a drug user.

  • Comment number 25.

    No. 8 Chris.
    This is just another easy way of manipulating crime statistics in removing this category of crime. People will still rob other people to obtain the money to buy these foul substances.

    People will rob other people to obtain money which is used for a multitude of things, in some countrys people rob so they can buy food, does this mean you ban food? Removing the criminality behind drugs means more money in the judicial system to punish people who who commit serious crime rather than waste money on punishing people who just enjoy getting high with friends or in the comfort of their own home. If you enjoy a drink why can't I enjoy a smoke? I work and have done all my life, i pay my taxes and don't upset no-one. If drugs were legal the governement could get more tax off me and this would also provide jobs in the same way that bar staff are employed to serve beer.

    With opinions like yours this country has no hope.

  • Comment number 26.

    Well making them illegal sure hasn't worked now has it? Just look at how successful Prohibition was in the US (drove alcohol production and sales underground into the hands of criminals as I recall ... ringing any bells?).

    Yes, legalise them all.
    This would mean the production of the drugs would be standardised (no more cutting with god knows what!) and the Gov would earn some tax on their sale and reduce the cost of Policing a non-police-able law.
    Restrict access in the same way as cigarettes and alcohol which would finally bring all the harmful drugs under one logical set of legislation.

  • Comment number 27.

    Supply of drugs and the illicit suppliers should be criminalised; their use and users/addicts should not be.
    Just the same as all prescription medication is now - make it freely available but on the advice of a doctor....there must be some control or minds will be destroyed
    I am a former addict, now many years in recovery, and I am a qualified addiction counsellor and psychotherapist. I am NOT a "softy" or person who panders to people. Getting clean and finding recovery can be atough, hard and dirty business....there are no romantic notions here.
    What we must NOT do is allow the decisions to be taken solely by people who have no idea about that which they are talking, politicians or not

  • Comment number 28.

    As an ex cannabis user I would like to see an approach which replaces criminalisation with registration and education. I don't want to see an official sanction of drug use - we've got enough problems with alcohol and tobacco. Young people in particular need to be made more aware of the mental and physical health risks of long term cannabis use.

    As an ex spliff-roller, I am appalled by the baggy tampon-like effort in your photo. Not only is it aesthetically displeasing, it will burn at a much higher temperature than a well rolled joint, causing significantly more throat and lung damage. If you are going to use drugs you should take some pride in the way you do it.

  • Comment number 29.

    When the Misuse of Drugs Act came in, in 1971, there were about 10,000 drug addicts in the UK. After 29 years we now have more than 10 times that many, and many, many millions using dangerous, unregulated substances which they buy from criminals. The question is not do we want to decriminalise or legalise. The question is:

    It is clear that the current prohibition is not working, not in this country, not in any of the signatories of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, or the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. There is no country on earth in which these treaties and the laws drawn up as a consequence, have led to a reduction in drug consumption. In fact the opposite has happened.

    People are going to use drugs anyway. Addicts are going to get their fix anyway. Recreational users are going to get their kicks anyway. Does the country want their sons, daughters, parents, grandparents even, buying their drugs from criminals or would they prefer that money to remain in the legitimate economy?

    Do people want doctors to be able to prescribe heroin and crack to addicts or do they want the current situation where something like 90% of all thefts, burglaries, muggings and robberies are carried out so their perpetrators can give the money to drug dealers. Imagine the knock-on effects if people weren't hanging around in the streets waiting for dealers, if the territorial battles for control of particular "patches" of sink estates stopped, the effect on insurance premiums if people no longer had to steal to feed their habits. Addicts are ill. Instead of giving them treatments which statistically do not work, they could be prescribed the drug to which they are addicted - or we can carry on sending them to criminals for their drugs...

    There must be an alternative to prohibition which will work, which will start to heal the horrendous situation in our inner cities. Because what we have right now is not working and all we are being offered is more of the same - just like the dealers into whose hands we are playing.

  • Comment number 30.

    A no-brainer, especially with a so-called Liberal government. Could we just decide on this and get on with sorting out the economy?

  • Comment number 31.

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

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm looking at a headline taken from a 1995 Dutch newspaper. It reads "Drug Decriminalization in Holland Has Increased Crime and Addiction".

    It comes as no surprise, then, that in September 2009, Holland finally began tightening it's drug laws.

    On the BBC's own website, it's reported that as recently as May 2010, the Scottish government also toughens it's opinions on soft drugs.

    And what do we do? Start listening to an OUTGOING "expert" who won't be responsible for clearing up the mess should his advice be taken. Unbelievable!

    Doctors should restrict their expertise to doctoring and leave sorting out the social ramifications of drugs to the people we elected.

  • Comment number 33.

    Clearly the powers in government must have their own drug rings. If they decriminalise all drugs, how will they make money from their crime ring ?

  • Comment number 34.

    Re 17, the word "hopefully" before "deter" says everything about current drug laws. There is a common chain of authoritarian thought that, when criminal sanctions fail, it is because the punishment needs to be cranked up another notch. This feels like the desperate need to protect failed ideas along with the credibility and careers of those that advocate these ideas. Given the success of legalisation in Portugal in reducing drug related crime, it is surely time for the debate about drug policy to move away from the hopeless and failed criminal approach and to trial controlled distribution and treatment in drug hotspots.

  • Comment number 35.

    Drug users are still going to have to pay for the drugs, and therefore will have to steal, burgle etc to fund their habit. Or are you legalisers happy for them to have all drugs free on NHS. Think next time please. I don't want heroin readily available on my streets more than they are already.

  • Comment number 36.

    Since the criminalisation of drugs seems to be a primary cause of lawlessness it would make sense to change the approach so that addicts can by encompassed by society. Perhaps that way there might be a measure of control over these vulnerable people rather than their exploitation the criminals.

  • Comment number 37.

    It's nonsense and worrying that someone in such a position could fail to think it through.

    We have immense problems with the legalised drugs alcohol and tobacco, with children getting these as young as thirteen. What makes anyone think we wouldn't have exactly the same trouble with crack, cocaine, heroin and speed? Even cannabis is known to increase the possibility of suffering from schizophrenia and other forms of psychoses, with the liklihood of becoming psychotic increasing 600% if cannabis is smoked in teeange years (study of 50,000 Swedish soldiers)

    Not only would we unleash problems on the same scale as we already have for alcohol and tobacco, but the drugs lords would simply fight back to regain their markets, inventing and distributing even more addictive and dangerous drugs and flooding the streets with cheaper alternatives to those that people think Boots will suddenly start selling.

    It's obvious nonsense, and indicative of the narrow thinking of some experts who can't see beyond the constraints of their discipline. Thank God most people have more sense.

    It's never going to happen.

  • Comment number 38.

    As such a high proportion of people in our prisons are there for 'drug related offences I agree that a completely new approach is needed. Just think of the money the government could make if it taxed the drugs instead of the criminals getting it all

  • Comment number 39.

    I work as a consultant in intensive care medicine in Wales. Alcohol is the biggest drug problem I see by an order of magnitude, and this has become worse in recent years. There is evidence from abroad, notably Switzerland, that decriminalising other drugs and treating the problem as a health issue, leads to a reduction in crime and an improvement in health. I believe the bensfits to society could be massive, but success would depend on good legislation in relation to regulation, taxation, and a major re-alignment of resources into support services and education. I don't think the media, and therefore the government, is ready for this yet.

  • Comment number 40.

    Chris said "We need more prisons and stiffer sentences to get the disgusting, vile filth off our streets and the disgraceful and CRIMINAL idiots who use this filth into the places they deserve to be - PRISON."

    I wonder if Chris has ever had any actual contact with normal drug users? Sure, some heavy heroin users etc may steal for their drugs, but the majority of all drug users, especially cannabis are normal, even professional people. In my group of friends, and cannabis users, we include well paid respected people, and I personally gained an MSc while recreationally using cannabis. I have never stolen from anyone, beaten anyone, and cannot imagine how I and most other drug users affect you enough for such an opinionated, hate-filled comment.

  • Comment number 41.

    In Portugal, where drugs have been legalised there has been a drastic fall in crime. Watch and learn, UK

  • Comment number 42.

    The current approach, overall, isn't working. It costs us a fortune fighting the drugs trade, and we're not winning that fight.

    Are criminalised drugs so much worse than alcohol and tobacco?

    Making alcohol illegal in the USA in the early part of the last century ('Prohibition') CREATED the mafia!

    I'm not sure I'm ready, sufficiently well informed, to say that we should decriminalise all 'recreational' drugs. But I am clear that there would be huge benefits.

    To consider just one benefit ... let's not forget that for all the anti-smoking efforts, tobacco duty received by the Treasury is double the (VERY rough) estimate of the cost of smoking to the NHS. How much higher would the NHS cost be if tobacco was illegal (no duty paid to the Treasury of course), with distribution in the hands of criminals and the 'quality' out of control (goodness knows what people would be actually smoking!).

  • Comment number 43.

    Was listening to radio berkshire this morning, they were dicussing the mental health refom in the area, the guy they were speaking to had been directly affected by cannabis as apprently it had caused his son's mental breakdown, thank full the father had a reasonable attitude towards the situation and agreed with most sensible people that the drugs should be controled and monitored and not just a blanket they are illegal option, finally a parent in a similar situation to debra bell that has their head screwed on:D

  • Comment number 44.

    Just like in the 1920's ,The criminal element (International Mafia, Drug Lords etc )have huge interest in keeping Drugs illegal. They pay and lobby to keep their income safe.
    Those who think they are protecting us from harm by keeping Drugs Illegal are doing the exact reverse. The "Do Gooders" are helping the criminals. If all DRUGS were legal, where would the criminals make their income? What we have right now (prohibition) does NOT work - Why do politicians continue to support this ridiculous policy.

  • Comment number 45.

    All we know for sure is that the present approach does not work. Drug barons get richer, accessibility to drugs gets easier and the law is no deterrent to either suppliers or users. It is clear we cant control drug use and its illegal supply. So why wouldnt we try something different ? The only reason is the paranoia of politicians and their inability to take a long term controversial view on the issue.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hooray finally a common sense approach instead of the head in the sand lock em up route. Prohibition has failed just as it always does, the war on drugs is lost !! Dealers control the streets with ready replacements if caught. 70% of crime is drug related lets listen to Sir Ian Gilmore for a change but I doubt the media or politicians have the courage to grasp this nettle.

  • Comment number 47.

    On the one hand we have a welcome crackdown on smoking and on the other a doctor wanting drugs decriminalised. I would prefer the other option. Ban smoking totally and come down like a ton of bricks on drug users and suppliers.

  • Comment number 48.

    In a word NO!

    We cannot regulate alcohol or tobacco NOW - What makes anyone think that OTHER drugs would be controlled or regulated better than these?

    Binge drinking is the manifestation of uncontrolled alcohol use - yet this is cheap and legal - a good number of burglaries and other crimes happen under the influence of drink -

    Making Cocaine and other Drugs cheap and legal will simply mean far more accidents on the road - fights etc.

    A review to INCREASE penalties for ALL drug taking including alcohol would be far better for all of us.

    Not just for the weak who need highs to face life - and cause mayhem whilst indulging.

    So No! (and Yes I did some drugs once)

  • Comment number 49.

    I don't agree that because we are losing the fight against drugs we should legalise it. What other crimes will follow suit? I suspect that around 90% of Class A drug users do not contribute to society or taxes, and probably never will. Do we want to see stoned junkies walking around our streets? Crimes will still be committed by them because they will still have no money! Maybe their welfare payments should be withheld until they are 'clean', that would save a fortune and direct welfare to those who are more in need and working to try and help themselves. Heaven help the next generation of children who are brought up to know that taking drugs is OK.

  • Comment number 50.

    Of course drugs should be decriminalised. The state should become the monopoly supplier, buying from growing countries and supplying to users here via registered outlets. There will then be no pushers, no drugs crime, and addicts can get help in the same way that smokers and alcoholics do now.
    Oh, this regime would include alcohol and tobacco as well, of course.

  • Comment number 51.

    finally !

  • Comment number 52.

    I honestly can't believe some people in this god forsaken country.

    So now we should legalize drugs and the bandwagon has already started. I tell you what why don't nightclubs set up a 'coke' & ecstacy option next to the alcohol.

    Kids can hang around outlets asking adults to purchase LSD & Weed (like they do for ciggarettes and alcohol now) and there will always be some low life who will buy it for them with the sense that 'wow im cool for buying this for them and they like me'

    But hey it'll be ok for more people to try and end up hooked on drugs because its 'legal'. how far do you think it'd need to go before people will even want help for the habit? No one is going to force them to kick it and being legal will give the wrong signal! Crime will not go away nor fall unless you want to distribute the drugs for free

    Drugs are illegal because:

    They are dangerous to your health (some more then others)
    Are addictive

    Legal = more people will try them, more people will get addicted, itd be even easier for kids to get hold of them, more people will suffer

  • Comment number 53.

    Yes, of course they should all be decriminalised, and yes of course, just like the previous one, this government is too cowardly and closed-minded to do anything about it. Next question please.

  • Comment number 54.

    Oh and just to add - all you people who give the 'i worked all my life so why cant i smoke weed?' - because its illigal - what makes you think because you blaze that it should be ok? What makes you so special?

    You dont like it? Then move to Amsterdam. You dont make the law and it damn well doesnt need to accomodate you and your drug habits

  • Comment number 55.

    The lessons of China in the mid 19th century seem to have been completely forgotten. China, under pressure from the British, legalised the consumption of opium and it enfeebled the whole country, leading to invasion and collapse of the status quo. If we wish to go that way then go ahead and legalise drugs, but my personal approach would be that of Chairman Mao, who through vigorous action and serious deterrents virtually eradicated the scourge of opium addiction in PRC.

  • Comment number 56.

    I'm 67 years old and a time-served drug addict.

    I smoke cigarettes and take a few glasses of wine in the evenings.

    I stopped going to my local pub the very last night I was allowed to smoke in there.

    Our government opined that the moment we had smoke-free pubs, the hordes of people waiting just for this very moment would flood in, buy ales and lots of meals.

    The decimated rural pubs that are still open, by the skin of their teeth, are still waiting for the eagerly-expected onslaught that will never happen.

    Whilst all this destruction is taking livelihoods away, the government of the day sits back and lose not one single penny of their revenue from so-called 'legal' drugs.

    They just keep increasing prices on fags and telling us how dangerous and costly it all is to the NHS when in truth they are merely hiking their own 'legal'? profits.

    Ditto for alcohol another dangerous 'legal'? drug.

    Take this ill-gotten income away from any government who are merely white-collared drug lords and watch the entire collapse of a country take place in days.

    I often speak with sensible, professional people who admit to taking illegal substances on a daily basis. Many have suggested I try them but I really have no idea how to hand-roll a cigarette and not a clue where I'd get the main ingredient from. Furthermore I wouldn't know if it was good choice or a bad choice, so I'll stay away. Despite the fact that these people seem to be perfectly normal outwardly.

    I confess I know nothing of 'illegal' drugs and cannot therefore comment but I do have an open mind.

    The question that always raises its head to me is 'Aren't ALL drugs just that - namely DRUGS'?

  • Comment number 57.

    Should drug use be decriminalised?

    Is your answer

    a) Yes.


    b) No we should keep fighting the same 'drug war' which we've spent billions on over the decade and allegedly results in the seizure of only 1% of all narcotics entering the country.

    Clue. Daily Mail readers answer b) :)

  • Comment number 58.

    Copy Portugal. They legalised drugs. It worked.

  • Comment number 59.

    I've got no statistics to back this up, it's pure opinion but; I'm sure that sending people to prison for taking drugs does them far more harm than the drugs themselves. It damages their employment prospects, must be psychologically damaging, makes them more resentful towards society.
    And it costs a lot of money

  • Comment number 60.

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

  • Comment number 61.

    I couldn't agree more. Those addicted to dangerous drugs need treatment as patients, not criminals. There are also those who use currently illegal 'drugs' as medicines and spiritual sacraments with, dare I say, (used correctly with care and understanding) positive results. I'm speaking of MDMA for treating post traumatic stress disorder, Ibogain for treating heroin addicts and LSD for a range of uses from treating end of life anxiety to alcoholism, autism and even enhancing creativity & problem solving.
    I wish all people out there who agree with Sir Ian Gilmore would have the courage to stand up and say so - you might be surprised how many we are.

  • Comment number 62.

    "At 08:12am on 17 Aug 2010, wolfmeister wrote:

    People who are against decriminalisation never had anyone in the family who had a drug problem."

    Not true. I am anti-prohibition despite losing my son to this crazy 'war on drugs'.

    My son died taking drugs. His death was not prevented by prohibition, in fact it was possibly hastened by it.

    More to the point, most who shout loudest for prohibition have little or no experience of the so-called drug problem, excepting maybe for their own 'legal' drug habit of alcohol, tobacco or a raft of highly addictive and dangerous prescription drugs.

    Wake up UK, and save us from this destructive and divisive phoney war on drugs.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think decriminalization of drugs is the only way forward. Especialy that there are numerous benefits behind it: no stigma to users, money for education and treatment, better control over substances, no money for crime, less work for police.
    Currently we have lack of unbiased studies concerning drugs because as soon as any study shows not what they want to know (eg drugs are bad) studies loose financial support (Jamaica study about canabis use in pregnancy).
    Press is at fault too. I remember article on BBC about dr Nutt that backed away from his opinion on changing drug clasification due to "new evidence". What evidence? I would like to read it myself.
    Most oposition comes from people that didn't read any research and have no idea about whole topic. Worst of all they usualy are hipocrits pointing fingers on "drugies" while drinking their bottle of wine.

  • Comment number 64.

    I think it's about time the drug laws were reformed. Take a fresh look at it again with an open mind. Personally I feel that alcohol is much more of a problem than drugs like Cannabis or Ecstasy. I've never seen anyone on Cannabis or E getting violent at the end of an evening out!!

    People will always find a way to get hold of these substances. We should avoid funding the criminal world in this way - legalise authorised outlets and tax the drugs sales. Put safe guards in place for quality of the drugs and information on responsible use.

  • Comment number 65.

    Of course drugs should be de-criminalised. We are 'supposed' to be a free country and capable of making our own decisions. Treat drugs like we treat drink and smoking, tax it. It really annoys me that dealers are selling drugs and not paying tax, very profitable, the tax paid like smoking and drinking would also add valuable resource to the health service to treat junkies, as it stands these junkies are self harming and we the tax payer are forking out billions for their treatment. Tax drugs tax drugs tax drugs.

  • Comment number 66.

    I don't know and luckily I don't have to - that’s why the taxpayer pays for ‘experts’.

    I am not in favour of letting people who choose to get hooked on a drug and brake the law to fund their habit get free treatment on the taxpayer (when it can't afford drugs to pay for cancer treatment etc)
    However I do want the police to focus on serious crime e.g. murder, abuse, rape and feel they 'waste' too much time on 'soft' crimes.

  • Comment number 67.

    For a country that built most of it's Empire on drug trading (Opium) isn't it a bit strange that we take such a backward view on drugs - especially when many of them are natural?

    Even in our own country - there are drugs freely available at given times of the year:

    Magic Mushrooms
    Fly Agaric
    Fox Glove (Digitalis - AKA speed)
    Ergot (Wheat fungus that causes hallucinations)
    Nettles (same family member as cannabis and has soporiphic effects)

    Doesn't take a genius to cultivate these plants all year round.

  • Comment number 68.

    I suppose if drugs were decriminalised it would release a lot of resources for other purposes, it could also raise billions in tax. The down side is drug addicts are not fit to work and so we should have to give them the cash for the drugs in the first place or they would have to steal more than now to cover the tax as well. Then we would have to dedicate a significant lump of NHS resources to provide the additional health requirements of addicts that otherwise would be available to the more responsible in society. On balance a good theoretical idea, a practical no brainer. Its one worse than the police only dealing with lawlessness thats the flavour of the month (PACTS) & ignoring all other offences. If its hard to enforce lets make it legal. If we had 1,000 murders and 5,000 rapes a week swamping the police resource we decriminalise it do we? I never understood the police & zero tollerance. If its illegal its illegal, deal with it. Ignoring stuff gives the idea you can break the law at will & nothing happens.

  • Comment number 69.

    39. At 08:27am on 17 Aug 2010, ozimandius wrote:
    "... I believe the benefits to society could be massive, but success would depend on good legislation in relation to regulation, taxation, and a major re-alignment of resources into support services and education. I don't think the media, and therefore the government, is ready for this yet."

    Can I just say that with this cynical conclusion, presented as it is in such an acute but offhanded manner, Ozimandius has made one of the sharpest, most accurate, and most effective observations I have ever seen on HYS!

  • Comment number 70.

    Should drugs be decriminalized ?
    Does making drugs illegal stop anyone who wants to take them from taking
    them ? .... No
    Does drugs illegality make it very difficult for people to get help when they feel they are getting a problem ? .... Yes
    Has Portugal's decision to legalise drugs caused a rise in drug taking ? ... No
    The only reason drugs are illegal these days is because governments are too scared to stand up to america who pressure the whole world into doing as they wish. They are obsessed with the fact that drugs cause all their problems rather than guns.The christian right wing of america seem to believe enjoyment of any kind is wrong

  • Comment number 71.

    It's interesting to read the comments from readers and see that the vast majority of people agree with Sir Ian Gilmore's entirely sensible recommendations. Why then is the government so against it? It is clear to the vast majority of informed people that the current position is ridiculous. The only winners as far as I can see are the criminals and terrorists. It's time we grew up and started to deal with the drug problem in a realtistic and couragous way.

  • Comment number 72.

    If the Government's argument is safety and protecting people from themselves then it fails spectacularly. People WILL want to take drugs and the current situation leaves them buying things that might or might not contain what they think they are buying and certainly contain things they have no idea about.

  • Comment number 73.

    It's good to see that the realistic approach to drug policy is still alive and kicking! I recentluy submitted my thoughts to the government using the YourFreedom crowd sourcing website, which echoes Sir Gilmore's.

    Sadly, my essay, and Sir Gilmore's recommendations will no doubt be staunchly ignored as any sane approach to the UK's drug law has been since prohibition began.

  • Comment number 74.

    As an historian, I do find this discussion has a rather limited perspective. Prior to 1967, this country had a very different system and the drug problem was very limited. In that year, the News of the World managed to panic the government of the day into adopting a completely different approach and the result has been the catastrophic situation that is overwhelming us now. If we want to climb out of the pit in which we find ourselves then we need to look at the system before that date and examine why it worked without the bigotry with which the issues are now discussed

  • Comment number 75.

    Surely in the current political climate everyone is taking the wrong approach. Look at decriminalisation in terms of money. Save 40% from the Justice budget? Simple, stop prosecuting drug users and see how much the courts, probation services and prisons are freed up to deal with real criminals. I know the police budget is ring-fenced, but this would be a way to save money AND increase police on the beat. Likewise, the health service would suddenly have more money spare. And all this is before you consider the extra tax revenue that would be generated...

  • Comment number 76.

    "Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country." True, but what's the most difficult drug to get hold of after closing time (certainly in London)? Alcohol. Because its regulated, controlled and taxed within the law. Denial is not a solution.

    And #31, if we round up all the "addicts" who is going to run our justice system and publish our newspapers? ;-)

  • Comment number 77.

    Sadly, human nature being what it is you would get thousands of people joining the thousands who are already too drugged up to work.

    Can you imagine all the people high on cannabis driving around staring at the advert for snickers?

    Increased paranoia, depression, taking more tobacco to mix cannabis with.

    Of course the pot heads are going to embrace the idea but you are sending a message to kids that being of your face is acceptable, take a look at your kids friends facebook accounts if you want to see what drink is doing to our children.

    Unfortunately, a better solution would be for people to enjoy reality rather than running away from it.

  • Comment number 78.

    8. At 07:54am on 17 Aug 2010, Chris wrote:
    This is just another easy way of manipulating crime statistics in removing this category of crime. People will still rob other people to obtain the money to buy these foul substances

    Oh dear neanderthals still exist!
    The whole point is to eliminate the criminal element, dear fellow. I'll overlook you foul mouthed insults as clearly you're slightly disturbed perhaps as a result of not taking your medication.
    Please start again and read the article properly, the whole point is that if these substances were not illegal then there would be no incentive for criminals to be involved.
    I don't like to slip into clichés but I think you're a Mail reader (or at least like to look at the pictures) please try to be a little bit original, this is such a tired and outdated viewpoint that only politicians and right wing editors still actually believe it.
    Dodctors, Senior Policemen and Judges have all seen the light on this subject.

  • Comment number 79.

    I love cannabis. thank god for cannabis.
    The only crime I have ever committed is buying cannabis
    I also hold a very well paid position before you ask
    and it should be legalised, thus saving everyone aggro

  • Comment number 80.

    One other thought came to me.

    Tobacco is legal and freely available - so why do so many SMUGGLE tobacco into the UK? To save money of course - that would be the motivation for harder drugs too - The weak and irresponsible need help not surrender.

    No to legalisation - Yes to review.

  • Comment number 81.

    How can anyone be serious about this?
    In 2001 the Taliban were ousted and Afghanistan was occupied and policed by Western troops. Since then this country has become the world's leading supplier of heroin.

    If I can can use Google earth to check out the colour of the car parked outside my house using satellite technology then how difficult can it be for the military to locate fields of white poppies?

    Surely, even someone with his or her head in the sand can reason that the removal of the source, of what the politicians claim is devastating our youth and responsible for the majority of crime, is a trivial matter. What moral objections can there be to napalming flowers and their habitat when viewed alongside the 150000 Iraqi that have died for a lie.

    There is something terribly wrong here.

  • Comment number 82.

    8. At 07:54am on 17 Aug 2010, Chris wrote:

    This is just another easy way of manipulating crime statistics in removing this category of crime. People will still rob other people to obtain the money to buy these foul substances. Can you imagine your local shop selling cannabis, weed or even heroine?!!! Bizarre and recklessly dangerous utterances from this pompous buffoon, who obviously has never really set foot outside of his palatial, electric-gated mansion and wandered into the real world!!!
    We need more prisons and stiffer sentences to get the disgusting, vile filth off our streets and the disgraceful and CRIMINAL idiots who use this filth into the places they deserve to be - PRISON.


    I wonder how many times Chris has delivered his tirade whilst leaning against a bar with one arm and waving a glass full of liquid drugs around as he does so?

    And yes, I have been perusing the idea of being able to walk into my local shop and purchase a 'heroine', I wonder what she would look like.

    I use an illegal drug, yet if you were to pass me in the street you would never know that. I do not rob people to buy my drugs - I go to work (on time, every day, which was not the case when I used alcohol) to earn my own money to buy them with - how does that grab you Chris? I pay my taxes and am otherwise a productive member of society. I do not drive or operate machinery (other than a kettle and toaster) under the influence, yet granted there are those who will, as they do with alcohol.

    So I fail to see why we are filth and deserve to be in prison. If drugs are decriminalised, I for one will be happy that I would not have to visit shady premises and risk my career, simply because I like to relax from time to time as I'm sure most of us do.

    You are what is known in the trade as a petty tyrant, sir.

  • Comment number 83.

    Of course drugs should be legalised.

    Prohibition never works as the yanks discovered when they made alcohol illegal. Legalisation will allow regulation of supply thus eliminating the dealers who wean people on to stronger more addictive drugs.

    Anyway, why lock someone up because they smoke some herbs in the privacy of their own room? Why not lock them up for smoking tobacco or eating olives? Primitive!

  • Comment number 84.

    The Government would do well to listen to the likes of Sir Ian Gilmore and conduct a thorough (and unbiased) review of current legislation. The current approach doesn't seem to be working, finding an alternative should be a priority.

  • Comment number 85.

    Much more good can come out of regulation than continued prohibition. There is far more scope to try new things to confront drug use and limit the damage caused to society. The sale of alcohol, tobacco and drugs should all be brought under one roof. Then impacts of drugs become real to all users, if there are indeed any associated with any particular drug.

  • Comment number 86.

    If we decriminalise drug use, we may have a time where everyone is using drugs, but it may be that because they are more easily accesible the attraction will disappear. As it will no longer be a illegal to aquire them. Argueably if it were made legal, would it not stop all of the Dealers lose their livelihood as they could no longer be in a position to set up gangs to sell on the quiet? This then could have a knock on effect to the growers around the world. As it would no longer be illegal. Its like the old addage you always want what you can't have !

  • Comment number 87.

    Comment 8. Chris wrote:
    "This is just another easy way of manipulating crime statistics in removing this category of crime. People will still rob other people to obtain the money to buy these foul substances. Can you imagine your local shop selling cannabis, weed or even heroine?!!! "

    You are forgetting that this suggestion came from medical practitioners, not politicians. Doctors have no interest in manipulating crime figures.

    Your suggestion that corner shops will be selling heroine is just a silly ploy to shoot the whole thing down. Any sensible scheme would have drugs like heroine and cocaine available only through licensed outlets, like chemists, to registered addicts. These drugs would be clean and free of criminal connections. It is likely that heroine would be available on prescription. Less serious drugs could be available in licensed outlets as in Amsterdam.

    Tobacco and alcohol would remain as they are, available in corner shops etc, for better or worse. There is a case for restricting those too.

  • Comment number 88.

    Lets not forget that legalising drugs will not stop junkies from stealing to fund their habit, no matter how much it costs. Like any addiction their need increases with use, Nor will it take away their drive for other selfish persuits.

    The only benefit is taxation they will still be creating havoc in society.

  • Comment number 89.

    Any addict should be able to visit a local centre and get their fix and some gentle health advice. This would take the profit out of dealing.

    Now you increase the penalties and crack down on people trafficing drugs.

    If there is no profit and high risk they will cut and run.

    Over time the number of new addicts should fall as there is no street supply. As soon as a "newbie" is addicted he gets his fix for free. There's no profit in that for criminals!

  • Comment number 90.

    The government can listen and legalise dope, or it can continue to be ignored. What it can't do is ban drugs - people take no notice whatsoever.

  • Comment number 91.

    Prohibition = Crime + Cost of policing etc.
    Legalisation = Tax - health costs relating to illicit use.

    It is not beyod the wit of the Treasury or even someone with access to the above elements of the equations above to calculate the difference between the two.

    In essence there is an economic case and a health case for legalisation. Can we not centre the debate around these factors for a start.

  • Comment number 92.

    Seems to me that drugs are only illegal because they're worth more when they are so. Where does the money go? In the bank, spread between the filthy rich who give backhanders to the corrupt politicions to change laws in their favour.

    Nobody has a right to tell you what you can put in your own body, especially the state. Responsible use to classic drugs such as ecstasy and mushrooms does negligable harm to the user and virtually none to society.

  • Comment number 93.

    Yes drugs should be made legal, but some (such as heroin) could perhaps be available only on prescription. Our current laws drive the cost of drugs up, thus making crime pay for the pushers and theft necessary for the purchasers.

  • Comment number 94.

    A review is always a good first step so long as the reviewers and their remit are credible. We need more people who actually know what they are talking about and not some wishy-washy talking shop set up to pander to political expediency. The initial review is what all subsequent actions will depend on. Let's hope they get it right this time. Just try to imagine the rewards.

  • Comment number 95.

    The Home Office statement says it all, really. To quote the original article:

    'A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country."'

    Translation: "Drugs are wrong, diddly wrong. No, we won't listen to reas-NO WE WON'T GO AWAY!"

    When progressive states across the US are decriminalising cannabis, and California is holding a referendum on whether to produce, package and tax the stuff, it seems absolutely ludicrous that the government should stick to this line. The comparison of cannabis with heroin and cocaine speaks volumes.

  • Comment number 96.

    We should decriminalising drugs. If we did crime would reduce in that much of the criminals trade is done by drugs and if the government took control and sold them over the counter, they would undercut drug dealers and drug barons profits and many would go out of business.

    Also problems with benefit claimants at the moment why dont we let the government control drugs becuase they mainly spend their benefits on drugs and if we are giving out the money for benefits and they are spending on drugs then thats a return and thus we can control our national debt elsewhere.

    Also for kids they try these things and continue to do them because its all an act of rebellion. If it was legal many would not bother with it probably at first but in the future slowly wont become addicts. Not to say that we wont have addicts but they will be comparable fewer in the long term.

    Also we have to make sure that in jobs that are high pressured drugs are taken in moderation or not at all until leave or something then for a cooldown. Also our economy will be helped in that many people from around the world will come to take drugs and spend their hard earned money thus helpin clear our debts.

  • Comment number 97.

    We seem to be having this debate weekly on the BBC, so why can't the fools in Westminster start to talk frankly about drug legislation?

  • Comment number 98.

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

  • Comment number 99.

    Criminalising normal human behaviour has proved to be a total disaster for all those involved. Our law and justice systems strain under the impossible task of policing this ever growing trade; and to make things even more laughable our laws fail to discriminate between harmful and harmless drugs.

    Alcohol: Addictive. Intoxicates. Damages liver and brain function.
    By any rate a harmful drug. ---Legal.

    Psilocybin/Psilocin: Intoxicates. Completely non-addictive. Harmless. Body becomes quickly tollerant to it, impossible to habitualise.
    A drug with next to no problem cases every year ---Class A.

    This class A rating was given simply because there were young people doing something that was not the mainstream, thus it became criminal behaviour in the eyes of the political class without any grounds in rationality whatsoever.

    The same happened with Methedrone; a harmless drug that was given a hasty trial in the absence of scientific reasoning by the gutter press. Now its users have moved on to another technically legal, yet inevitably more harmful drug.

  • Comment number 100.

    I agree with No 1. I have long thought that the use of drugs should be decriminalised. That would immediately wipe out the horrendous amount of drug-related crime that plagues our society.


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