Letter: Reality of drugs

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Steve Rolles of Transform (letter, 29 May) is right: reality has obliged Keith Hellawell to alter his strategy to provide treatment for some of the 100,000-200,000 who his report guesses are afflicted by drugs misuse in this country.

This will not help the estimated millions who use drugs but do not become addicts. These people still risk prison even though everyone knows that most are not really criminals. Mr Hellawell has no plans to protect them from the indiscriminate Misuse of Drugs Act.

Whilst a large, but inadequate, budget is spent on helping very few people, the criminal justice system spends even more on punishing people uselessly. The Dutch system of decriminalisation is fine, as far as it goes, but it still grants the monopoly for drugs supply to criminals. Two percent of Britain's GDP is earned by these criminals.

Mr Hellawell admits that he has no real baseline of data to work from. Yet his targets are expressed as a percentage reduction of this non-existent baseline. How odd. But he will never get a baseline until the fear of prosecution is removed from those people who, alone, can provide the information he needs.

Mr Hellawell is like a confused heavyweight rugby forward, who barges about the field trying to tackle his opponents. He can tackle and he plays to the crowd, but he doesn't know who has the ball.

He has a problem for which there is only one solution: he must bring drugs supply and use under reasonable, legal control. When he does this, he will know who needs help, money will stop being wasted by the criminal justice system and revenues will start flowing in from a controlled, safe and legal supply trade for those who need help.


Taunton, Somerset