So, following the rare outbreak of sanity earlier this year from our very own Bob Ainsworth, a few more serious people have put their heads above the parapet and called for an end to the War on Drugs. This time the signatories include the former President of Columbia, who you'd think knew a thing or two about the subject, George Shultz, Javier Solana and Kofi Annan. This adds to the declaration by Juan Manuel Santos, the current Columbian president that he would "not be against decriminalisation". It's not just international NGO grandees and superannuated politicians either. Law Enforcement against Prohibition now boasts thousands of members. Several unserious people added their voice too. A few Countries around the world are decriminalising drugs, and not seeing their societies collapse into anarchy, though the US ensures that outright legalisation is off the table for the time being, and the White House described the report as "misguided" it is clear the it is standing Canute*-like against a rising tide.
Whatever Gil Kerlikowske thinks, the dam is cracking in the global establishment position that drugs eradication by interdiction of supply is the best means to mitigate the harms of illegal drugs. The evidence is mounting that supply cannot be interdicted in any meaningful way, and that most users do not cause problems.
There are still pillars of resistance which will remain standing long after the cracks become a flood. The law-enforcement community has invested huge sums in prohibition, and vast bureaucracies, some with global reach like the DEA which have huge lobbying power, will resist decriminalisation, which amounts to a declaration that 40 years of effort and sacrifice from their officers has been a failure at best, and probably massively counter-productive.
Our own dear Inspector Gadget condemns the "well heeled" who call for the legalisation of drugs, arguing that "the reality" of drug use amongst the criminal underclass is different. Of course, if poor people admit to drug use, they get locked up. Unlike Dame Judi Dench or Sting.
"At least when it’s illegal we can do something about it, unlike the widespread alcohol abuse which causes so much damage to society."He says. Of course, it may not be the Police's role to "do something" about drugs and alcohol apart from locking up problem users who nick things or beat each other up. Just because something is bad, or harmful, it doesn't follow that it should be illegal. Much of the crime associated with drugs is either 1) acquisitive crime to fund a habit. or 2) violent crime as dealers defend their patch.
The law enforcement communtiy is not known for radical thinking, and has a lot of political capital tied up in prohibition, not to mention jobs and funding. Their knee-jerk response to any call for decriminalisation is to condemn it as "misguided" or "dangerous" and to dismiss the person making the call as a (probably drug-addled) crank. Such reports as today make this approach more difficult, and the truth is coming out: Legalised drugs would reduce the cost, reducing the level of acquisitive crime needed to fund habits. It would eventually eliminate drug related violent crime as dealers would be undercut by the local legal supplier. Booze may cause fights, but it's not the publican beating up the manager of the local branch of Sainsbury's.
But wouldn't legal drugs be more available? No. Drugs are easier to get hold of (especially after hours) than Alcohol in most urban areas. In terms of oblivion per buck, Heroin's cheaper than booze. If anything a legal supply chain would REDUCE availability to problem users.
But drugs are Harmful, wouldn't legalising them mean more use, more addicts and be detrimental to society? That's not the evidence of Portugal's or any other decriminalisation experiment (the supply chain is still in criminal hands). In addition to the crime reduction, by imposing pharmaceutical standards on drugs, many of the medical problems associated with use will be reduced even more by legalisation and regulation as opposed to mere decriminalisation.
The fact supporters of continued prohibition must contend with, is, after 40 years of the 'war on Drugs' has failed. Coke, weed, heroin are more plentiful and cheaper than they have ever been. Whatever the answer to the "drug problem" more of the same ain't it.
*Yes, I know Canute was making a point to his courtiers.