After 50 years of global drug prohibition it is time for governments throughout the world to repeat this shift with currently illegal drugs.
We spend billions of pounds without preventing the wide availability of drugs.
Politicians and the media need to engage in a genuine and grown up debate about alternatives to prohibition, so that we can build a consensus based on delivering the best outcomes for our children and communities.
Prohibition has failed to protect us. Leaving the drugs market in the hands of criminals causes huge and unnecessary harms to individuals, communities and entire countries, with the poor the hardest hit.
Crime Prevention Minister, James Brokenshire was quick to reject Bob Ainsworth’s comments. He rattled on about drugs being harmful and that they ruin lives etc. but it was all just the usual dribble you would expect. He even went as far as saying that decriminalisation is a simplistic solution and “Legalisation fails to address the reasons people misuse drugs in the first place or the misery, cost and lost opportunities that dependence causes individuals, their families and the wider community”. You have to wonder why he thinks that sending addicts to prison is going to address these problems especially considering we have been doing this vigorously for half a century.
Ironically, current UK PM, David Cameron once supported the principles as Ainsworth including a study into prescribed heroin, downgrading ecstasy from Class A to Class B, as well as moveing towards a policy of Harm Reduction.
We recommend that the Government initiates a discussion within the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of alternative ways-including the possibility of legalization and regulation-to tackle the global drugs dilemma.
David Cameron is infamous for not denying he used cocaine and cannabis in his youth and was even caught using drugs at school. But like most politicians, the need to further his career meant renouncing previous ideals and towing the party line.
When you look back 40 years, 40 years ago there were a few hundred heroin addicts who had their heroin prescribed by a doctor. There are now 50,000-60,000 registered addicts creating an enormous amount of crime. It would be very disturbing if some radical options were not at least looked at. We are now getting into that and it would be interesting to see what you come back with.
Bob Ainsworth’s comments have stirred up much debate in the UK especially since the announcement of a new drug strategy from the UK government. These new proposals have been slammed as regressive and a move in the wrong direction. Under one of the new proposals, ministers will not be required to seek the advice of scientists when making drug related decisions or policy. Another planned proposal is to remove social security benefits from drug users who do not seek treatment. And there is to be an increased focus on stopping supply. Again, a government fails to take on evidence and expert advice, instead opting for just more of the same old useless "War on Drugs" tactics.
The government says that this new strategy will put more responsibility on addicts to seek treatment. Those who don’t act on the government’s guidelines will lose their social security benefits or suffer other punishments. Sadly, it reeks of conservative ideology where “personal responsibility” is king, Forget compassion and medical reasoning, junkies deserve what they get. Forget the latest research. The fact is, although many addicts will finally kick their habit, many will not. Those who don’t respond to conventional treatment are often born with a predisposition for opiate addiction e.g. an imbalance in their brain's chemistry, some of the 66 known genes that promote the need for opiates, a persistent impairment of synaptic plasticity in a key structure of the brain etc. This drives them to seek out a cure which usually ends with heroin use. It may be impossible for some people to comprehend but this small group of addicts have a physical problem and are not simply selfish losers with no will power. If the government bothered to read the advice given to them from medical experts, they would know this. I dare say they actually do but it’s easier and more popular to punish these people or exploit the “personal responsibility” tactic.
It’s probably no surprise that the government is critical of Bob Ainsworth’s comments when they are prepared to introduce such a backward strategy.
Although some politicians and anti-drug zealots have been quick to reject Bob Ainsworth’s comments, there has also been a lot of support.
This could be a turning point in the failing UK ‘war on drugs.’ Bob Ainsworth is the persuasive, respected voice of the many whose views have been silenced by the demands of ministerial office. Every open rational debate concludes that the UK’s harsh drugs prohibition has delivered the worst outcomes in Europe – deaths, drug crime and billions of pounds wasted.
--Labour’s Paul Flynn MP, Founder Council Member of the British Medicinal Cannabis Register
Prof. David Nutt, the former chief adviser to the government on drugs (AMCD), made the most sense. According to the BBC, he said that most MPs actually agree with Mr Ainsworth, but feel they cannot say so publicly because of "the pressure of politics”.
The current approach to drugs has been an expensive failure, and for the sake of everyone, and the young in particular, it is time for all politicians to stop using the issue as a political football. I have long advocated breaking the link between soft and hard drugs – by legalising cannabis while continuing to prohibit hard drugs. But I support Bob Ainsworth’s sensible call for a proper, evidence based review, comparing the pros and cons of the current prohibitionist approach with all the alternatives, including wider decriminalisation, and legal regulation.
--Peter Lilley MP, former Conservative Party Deputy Leader
The Labour Party was also quick to distance themselves from Ainsworth’s comments and party leader, Ed Miliband, called them, “irresponsible”. This was just more of the mass stupidity on display from UK politicians as flimsy and tired old excuses were rolled out once again. It was only a handful of brave pollies who finally stood up and backed Ainsworth. Luckily, attitudes are changing and defending a failed, useless drug policy no longer automatically wins the public’s support.
Liberal Democrats have long called for a science-based approach to our drugs problem. So it is without hesitation that I support Bob Ainsworth’s appeal to end party political point-scoring, and explore sensitively all the options, through an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
--Tom Brake MP, Co-Chair, Liberal Democrat Backbench Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities
The comments from Bob Ainsworth have showed us that attitudes are changing away from maintaining the current "War on Drugs" approach. There are dozens of articles every day in the global media that expose the failure of current drug policies. And like all major issues, the last to act are politicians. Ainsworth’s comments come at the beginning of a new era where politicians will gradually admit their opposition to current drug policies. Politicians like Ron Paul in the US, who were once seen as radical for opposing the drug war will soon appear as visionaries. Hardliners pushing for Zero Tolerance policies will become marginalised as governments look to blame someone for the fallout of a failed policy.
We've got so used to 40 years of prohibition which, in my experience of over 30 years of policing, has led to massive cost, a failure to achieve the primary aims, which is the reduction of drug use, and a range of unintended harmful consequences
--Tom Lloyd: Former Chief Constable Of Cambridgeshire Police
History will not be kind to those who snubbed science and research, especially in the UK. For many years, the UK listened to it’s doctors and stood it’s ground by rejecting the UN/US attempt to ban prescribing heroin to addicts. But recent governments have swapped this tradition to participate in the drug war. The UK once utilised it’s medical expertise to form sound and appropriate health strategies but since the 1970s, we have seen the slow death of evidence and research dictating health and drug policies. Technically, licensed doctors can still prescribe heroin to addicts with about 400 people still receiving their dose each week. A recent study into expanding this practice like the pre-1970s, hi-lighted how successful prescription heroin really is. Add to this the Prof. Nutt debacle and the proposal to make drug related decisions without consultation with the AMCD and you have a political process that is in stark contrast to the UK that was once based on compassion and medical expertise. Politicians have a lot to answer for.
Bob Ainsworth and David Raynes of the National Drug Prevention Alliance discuss the link between drugs and crime.
On a lighter note, you know when David Raynes becomes involved, you have probably won the argument. David Raynes is part of the anti-drug network consisting of nutters from all over the world. Their arguments are as flimsy and flawed as one would expect from fanaticals or fundamentalists. They are the “Drug Free” crowd who still believe that we can rid the world of drugs and anything but a Zero Tolerance policy is not acceptable.