Debate: Should the UK follow Washington's example and permit the legalisation of drugs?


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The Independent Online


What's going on?

A group of influential MPs has released a damning report that calls on Government to reconsider its drug policies.

The central demand in the MPs' 147-page review is that Britain establish a commission for reform, since the current policy is both failing to tackle the drug barons at the heart of the illegal trade and doing too little to help users emerge from addiction.

It also called for an examination of other countries which had introduced more liberal drug regimes, including Portugal where users are not prosecuted for possessing small amounts.

Ministers should, it said, open discussions with the UN on ways to tackle the drugs trade, including "the possibility of legalisation and regulation".

But the Government quickly moved to quash debate last night and ruled out any shift in drugs policy. Should they have listened more closely?

Case for: Change is coming

What really discredits the case for legalisation is the number of pot-heads parroting half-baked arguments and plastering "Legalize" posters across their student hovels. This report, however, comes from quite different pedigree. And its case is unanswerable. Each year drugs cost thousands of lives and billions of taxpayer's money. With a sensible programme of reform, we could minimise the harm done to users and reduce the seismic economic impact of abuse. The example from America is clear. Change is coming. Britain should lose the stuffiness and move with it.

Case against: Spreading Disaster

The natural (and probably immediate) consequence of decriminalisation or – even worse – full legalisation will be a drastic increase in consumption. On what possible grounds is the drastic increase in consumption of highly addictive and ruinous substances individually, socially, or morally desirable? In any case, as Peter Hitchens argues in his book “The War Never Fought”, the point about the alleged ‘War on Drugs’ is not that it was ineffective; it’s that we never actually fought it. An excessively soft approach means we are, in effect, admitting defeat before engaging in battle. That is what cowards do.