Ian Oliver: Legalising drugs would only make matters worse

Share
Related Topics

Recently, A great deal of media attention has been focused on a call for the legalisation of drugs by a former civil servant who was responsible for the Cabinet's anti-drug unit. In The Independent last week, Julian Critchley said that legalisation would be "less harmful than the current strategy" and that an "overwhelming majority of professionals in the field" agree with that view.

Now he has become a teacher, his dangerously naive views appear to be more harmful than an inadequate UK drug policy, and he must associate with a limited group of professionals if his assertion is not gross exaggeration. The majority of people in the UK do not wish to see drugs legalised, and only 6 per cent of the global population between the ages of 15-64 use drugs; this is hardly justification for legalisation.

The UK has the highest rate of drug misuse in Europe and the abuse of illicit drugs is a major social problem, not least because of the public health implications. Aids/HIV and other blood-borne diseases are global pandemics and there is a huge ignorance in the UK about these, and sexually transmitted infections, which are also linked with drug abuse. The legalisation of drugs would lead inevitably to a greater number of addictions, an increased burden on the health and social services, and there would be no compensating diminution in criminal justice costs as, contrary to the view held by legalisers, crime would not be eliminated or reduced.

Perhaps it is not widely known that there is a global movement to overturn the United Nations Conventions and secure the legalisation of all drugs driven by people who see huge profits to be had from marketing another addictive substance. Research has demonstrated that the dependency rate for "legal" drugs among those who chose to use them would be around 50 per cent, the same as tobacco, which is why major companies are turning to developing countries in order to encourage smoking.

Recently, a TV programme discussed the issue, and several members of the public phoned in their views, most of which were responsibly opposed to the misuse of drugs. However, it was alarming to hear several people say that they thought that legalising drugs would be the most effective way of dealing with the problem. All of these good people believed that such action would defeat the traffickers, take the profit out of the drug trade and solve the drug problem completely. There was no consideration given to the fact that there is a thriving black market in the legal drugs of alcohol and tobacco, and no awareness of the huge administrative burden that would be created by setting up a government department to tax and administer drugs if legalisation had occurred. There was no awareness of the devious ways in which drug traffickers would circumvent the legislation and no thought given to the huge increase in addiction/dependency that would automatically follow such an ill-advised move, with the tremendous damage that would be visited on the health services in perpetuity. The tax demands would rocket as a consequence.

It is always asserted that legalisation would take the profit out of drug trafficking and would result in a huge drop in crime but, short of the Government distributing free drugs, those who commit crime now to obtain their drugs would continue to do so if they became legal.

It is seldom made clear which drugs the legalisers are referring to and to whom they should become available. Is it the position that they wish to legalise "crack" and will all people, regardless of age and mental condition, be able to buy them?The cumulative effects of prohibition and interdiction, combined with education and treatment during 100 years of International Drug Control, have had a significant impact in stemming the drug problem. Legalisation would be likely to convince people that any legal activity cannot be very harmful, increase the availability of drugs, increase the harmful consequences associated with drugs and remove the social sanctions normally supported by the legal system.

All drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, can be dangerous if they are taken without attention to appropriate medical advice. Instead of calling for legalisation, it would be far more sensible, as Nick Harding suggested in his article about cannabis use in yesterday's Independent, to seek improved policies. The compassionate and sensible approach should be that we do everything possible to reduce addiction and drug abuse, not encourage it.

Dr Ian Oliver is a former Chief Constable of Grampian Police and the author of 'Drug Affliction'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I'm just as merry without a drink, thank you

Fiona Sturges
“I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan Shen told the assembled media. “But once I got in there ... I decided I needed time to think.”  

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015