Commander John Grieve, head of criminal intelligence at the Metropolitan Police, said it would be 'a philosophy born of despair' at the failure to solve the drugs problem. 'I have spent 20 years dealing with this and things have got steadily and steadily worse. The Government and the Home Office ignore this message at their peril.'
Speaking at the Association of Chief Police Officers' annual drugs conference, Mr Grieve said it was a case of either going to war on dealers of such drugs as heroin, cocaine and cannabis across the globe or devising new options to reduce crime against the elderly and vulnerable and to fight organised crime.
This should not lead to legalisation or decriminalisation, although some would argue that it does. 'In reality it might lead to licensing some people to possess, some people to use and some people to supply some, several or many drugs. We need to undermine the economic or acquisitive base of drugs crime and the economic base of organised crime.' A major research programme was needed.
Speaking outside the conference Mr Grieve said he could not be drawn on the 'who, what, when or where' of how the proposals could work - that would depend on the results of the research. But exercising control of drugs, prices and dealing would stabilise an unstable business.
Mr Grieve was outlining the conclusions of a working group of senior drugs detectives, which he said were supported by about half its membership, including himself.
The group also recommended that the police should consider a national programme of cautioning for possession offences and should perhaps stop seizing syringes from drug users. Mr Grieve said it was likely to be more cost-effective for the police to become involved in prevention.
Although his presentation was applauded by the delegates, a number spoke in strong opposition. Keith Hellawell, chairman of the conference, said the issue would form part of a report to the association's crime committee but it was clear that it did not enjoy the support of the entire conference.