Thursday, 2 June 2011

Wake up call to prohibitionists? Your policy has failed!!

At last, many ex-heads of state, ex-Government ministers, academics and celebrities seem to be coming together to reveal the total disaster of the prohibition of drugs policies.

Since the prohibition of drugs experiment was started back in the 1920's and particularly since the adoption of the world-wide UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 1961, which led to the Misuse of drugs Act in the UK in 1971, we have seen disaster after disaster.

Whilst criminal gangs have made huge un-taxable or laundered profits and their victims have suffered from both ignorance (lack of credible advice and legal protection) through some drugs, the hypocritical law-makers have favoured the use of other and often more harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco, and Governments have taxed users heavily.

Lack of advice and quality control has led to countless deaths, untold crime, gang-warfare and an almost endless list or problems mostly brought on by the prohibition policy itself - a policy that has left the supply of what are clearly commercially viable, if not universally desirable, consumables.

Whilst police spend massive amounts of taxpayers' money - many billions of pounds each year in the UK alone, the result has been simply atrocious - to the point that it is hard to justify the policy on any level.   The law often punishes the people it ought to protect - the "victimless" users; it enables criminal profits and creates addicts often driven to crimes of acquisition to pay the high prices for dubious quality drugs of unknown strength - whether cannabis, cocaine, heroin, LSD or whatever.  Strangely enough, in the UK and many countries, alcohol and tobacco are the exception, as well as being the biggest killers.

Now a group of ex-Government leaders and academics, as well as celebrities, have come together to demand that the UK Government end the failed policy of drug prohibition and take control; this comes at a time when a  well-respected international body (The Global Commission on Drug Policy) has declared the "war on drugs" a total failure.  

The 19-member commission includes former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and former US official George P Schultz, who held cabinet posts under US presidents Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Others include former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker,Mexico's former President Ernesto Zedillo, Brazil's ex-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, as well as the current Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou. The panel also features prominent Latin American writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa, the EU's former foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

The list of those that have written to the UK Government demanding an end to prohibition includes Dame Judi Dench, Julie Christie, singer Sting, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and former Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth..  It is also supported by Film director Mike Leigh, actress Kathy Burke, three former chief constables and leading lawyers.

The open letter to the UK  Government, which was published by the campaign group Release, reads: “We call on the Coalition Government to undertake a swift and transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies. "

It concludes: "The failure of the current UK system of criminalisation is clear. It is time for the UK to review its policy and adopt a health focused, evidence based approach to drug use."

The UK Home Office was quick to respond, with a standard letter: "The immediate reaction from the Home Office last night was to rule out any such move: "We have no intention of liberalising our drugs laws. Drugs are illegal because they are harmful – they destroy lives and cause untold misery to families and communities."

Strangely enough, almost the same words as used by the last Labour Government when Bob Ainsworth MP was himself a Home Office minister.  Mr Ainsworth seems to have changed both his job and his tune - but NOW maybe he is speaking more honestly and sincerely than previously, who know?

Either way, to see this report from the The Global Commission on Drug Policy and letter to the Government is somewhat refreshing, even though the initial response remains as boringly thoughtless and hypocritical as ever.

When will the prohibitionists wake up to the FACT that their failed and costly policy is doing far more harm than good?  Or maybe it is them that makes the biggest profits all along?

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