Is the War on Drugs failing?

16 Aug

Former director of the UK Anti-Drug Co-Ordination Unit, Julian Critchley, has publicly said that drugs should be decriminalised. Claiming that his opinion was also favoured by other experts, he argued that,

minimising harm through a draconian legal policy [has not worked]. It is now clear that enforcement and supply-side interventions are largely pointless.

In his commentary, ‘The Case is Overwhelming, All Experts Agree: Legalize Drugs’, Julian also maintained that ‘the benefits to society of the fall in crime as a result of legalisation would be dramatic’.

What is however, more revealing about the supposedly war on drugs, is that, it is nothing more than a governmental exercise to either ‘appease the conservatives or to appear tough’. As he asserts,

But I fear that policy will not catch up with the facts any time soon. It would take a mature society to accept that some individuals may hurt, or even kill themselves, as a result of a policy change, even if the evidence suggested that fewer people died or were harmed as a result.

Julian’s views is supported by Danny Kushlick of the Telegraph who commented that the drug war is one of the ‘great social policy disasters of the last 100 years’ :

If you voted in the last election, you probably voted for prohibition. You voted to gift hundreds of billions of pounds to organised crime each year, to undermine the social and economic development of producer countries such as Colombia, Afghanistan as well as transit countries such as Guinea Bissau and Jamaica. You voted to double the amount of acquisitive crime in the UK and to double the prison population with it. Your “X” contributed to misery and degradation for millions of the most marginalised people on earth…

That the drug war is not working in the UK, is supported by a newly released report, Tackling Drug Markets and Distribution Networks in the UK, by the non-governmental, UK Drugs Policy Commission. As Mark Easten of the BBC notes,

my analysis suggests that such [drug] crime was falling faster before the [ tough on drugs ]scheme was introduced. The British Crime Survey shows that household crime in England and Wales fell 7% a year before the programme and 4% afterwards.

It is time that the so called ‘war on drugs’ be re-looked and examined. A zero tolerance approach is likely to contribute more harm than good. Legalising and regulating drugs might reduce non-violent crimes and avert the situation.


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