Right-wing paper calls for all drugs to be legalised

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THE LEGALISATION of drugs would offer 'substantial social savings' and reduce associated criminality, a leading economist argues in a paper published today by a right-wing think tank.

Dr Richard Stevenson, director of the Heath Economics Unit and a lecturer at Liverpool University, says legalisation of drugs would 'wrest control of drugs markets from criminals'. Prohibition, he says, is 'wrong in principle and does not work in practice'.

Dr Stevenson's paper, Winning the War on Drugs: To Legalise or Not? published by the Institute of Economic Affairs will fuel the debate over whether controlled legalisation should be considered. It follows a number of similar calls by senior police officers.

Prohibition imposes large enforcement and sentencing costs on the Exchequer, Dr Stevenson argues, as well as a cost to the private sector in drugs-related crime. It also adds to the medical risks of drug use by encouraging injecting and forcing users into prostitution. Law enforcement policies which concentrate on the supply of drugs have failed because increasing seizures have been more than offset by production, so that in real terms, prices have remained constant or fallen.

The specific rewards of legalisation, Dr Stevenson says, include medical and social benefits to drug users and their families, reductions in public health risks and less wear and tear on political and legal institutions.

Dr Stevenson proposes that while it would not longer be an offence to possess, use or trade drugs, they should carry a health warning and sales to children should be illegal.