Monday, March 21, 2011

War on drugs has failed, say former heads of MI5, CPS and BBC, the day of legalisation of drugs comes closer but who has the political courage?

Dear All

One of the key issues that will be missing from the Holyrood Election is the legalisation of drugs.

The "war on drugs" has failed miserably!

For some time I have been blogging that the only way to win the ‘war’ is to bankrupt the entire drugs market.

Now, to prominent public figures including former heads of MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service agree the ‘war on drugs’ should be abandoned.

At Holyrood Election, politicians will talk tough on crime because they think that is what the voters want to hear and it will win them votes.

But all they are doing is putting party before people.

In a nutshell, vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns.

Vast amounts of money that could have used by the State to help the vulnerable.

And while politicians have moved ‘deckchairs on the Titanic’ to look good, criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country.

Is it a straight proposition, whom would you rather see in control of profits from drugs, the State or criminals?

If the State gets the profits generated it could be used to fund projects, education and infrastructure for the benefit of the people.

And there is a vast liquidity of cash untapped out there, just sitting there.

For 50 years the ‘war on drugs’ has been fought badly, piecemeal and in a clueless manner.

50 years of failure to achieve any of the stated goals.

You can’t manage the drug problem unless you’re actually on the playing field.

The MPs and members of the House of Lords have formed a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform. They are calling for new policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence.

It could lead to a situation where the British government decides to decriminalise drugs.

Or another alternative that the police and Crown Prosecution Service not to jail people for possession of small amounts of banned substances.

Have a read of my post of 10th November 2010.

Arnold Schwarzenegger took the view that clogging up the Courts was a bad return for the taxpayer.

Another aspect of consideration is cutting the numbers and cost of the prison population in the UK.

The chairman of the new group, Baroness Meacher said:

“Criminalising drug users has been an expensive catastrophe for individuals and communities. In the UK the time has come for a review of our 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. I call on our Government to heed the advice of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that drug addiction should be recognised as a health problem and not punished. We have the example of other countries to follow. The best is Portugal which has decriminalised drug use for 10 years. Portugal still has one of the lowest drug addiction rates in Europe, the trend of Young people's drug addiction is falling in Portugal against an upward trend in the surrounding countries, and the Portuguese prison population has fallen over time.”

And in Scotland, we should be ahead of the curve instead of being behind it, way behind it.

Lord Lawson, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1983 and 1989, said:

“I have no doubt that the present policy is a disaster. This is an important issue, which I have thought about for many years. But I still don't know what the right answer is I have joined the APPG in the hope that it may help us to find the right answer.”

Other high-profile figures in the group:

Baroness Manningham-Buller, who served as Director General of MI5, the security service, between 2002 and 2007;

Lord Birt, the former Director-General of the BBC who went on to become a “blue-sky thinker” for Tony Blair;

Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, until recently the Director of Public Prosecutions;

Lord Walton of Detchant former president of the British Medical Association and the General Medical Council;

Current MPs on the group;

Peter Bottomley, who served as a junior minister under Margaret Thatcher;

Mike Weatherley, the newly elected Tory MP for Hove and Portslade;

Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.

At some point the legalisation of drugs will happen, but it will only happen if politicians are willing to be blue sky thinkers and radical.

In Scotland, before such a radical idea can gain ground, we have to get rid of the flawed notion of ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’.

The day of ‘smart on crime’ is coming because 50 years of failure is a hell of a track record.

George Laird was right again.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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