A Virulent Outbreak of Rational Thought

Linked with International Drug Policy Consortium IDPC, and with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition LEAP.

Published on openDemocracy, by Charles Shaw, 20 May 2010.

Two UK based organizations are charting a course through the miasma of international drug policy by publishing detailed road maps for legalization. It invites the question: Where are the Americans?

Perhaps because the scale of the UK crisis is measurably lower than in the States, and thus more manageable, two UK-based drug policy organizations have been able to craft individual frameworks for reform and regulation that are garnering a lot of attention, and inspiring activists and reformers across the pond.

The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), a global network of NGOs and professional networks that specialize in issues related to the production and use of controlled drugs, recently published the first edition of their Drug Policy Guide aimed at national policymakers … //

… LEAP’s (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) director Jack Cole called the Blueprint, “truly groundbreaking. In years to come we’ll look back at prohibition, and the only question we’ll ask is why it lasted so long.”

The aim of the Blueprint for Regulation is the aim of Transform’s overall mission, which is to “dismantle prohibition and regulate the illicit market” which they assert will have the following results:

  • Restoration of human rights and dignity to the marginalised and disadvantaged.? Only a few decades ago problematic drug users were treated in the UK for what they were – people desperately in need of help. Prohibition turns the majority of those without substantial private means into criminal outcasts, throwing yet more obstacles in the way of effective treatment, reducing access to employment, housing, personal finance, and achieving a generally productive and healthy life.
  • A substantial decrease in the largest cause of acquisitive crime, gun crime and street prostitution.? As with alcohol prohibition in the US, drug prohibition has gifted the market to organised criminals. The deregulated market leads to extortionate street prices that in turn result in very high levels of acquisitive crime and street prostitution amongst low income dependent users, and violent ‘turf wars’ over control of the lucrative trade. The Home Office estimates that over half of all property crime is related to fundraising to buy illegal drugs, and police have identified illegal drug markets as the key engine behind the UK’s burgeoning gun culture.
  • Huge reductions in the non-violent prison population. ?Over half of the UK prison population is made up of dependent heroin and crack users convicted of property crimes to support their habits. Prison has proven to be a hugely expensive and singularly ineffective and inappropriate environment in which to address drug misuse issues.
  • A “peace dividend” from ending the drug war. ?In a study commissioned by the Home Office, York University estimated the social and economic costs of heroin and cocaine use in 2000 to be between £10.1 and £17.4 billion – the bulk of which are costs to the victims of drug-related crime. Billions currently wasted each year on counter productive enforcement could be freed up to fund drug treatment and education, non drug related policing activities, and other social programmes.

America, sadly, is lagging way behind. At the unveiling of the 2011 Drug Control Strategy last week, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske vowed that the Obama Administration would now view drug use as a “public health” issue instead of a criminal justice one. Focusing on only one major line item in the budget, a nominal increase in Treatment and Prevention, Kerlikowske cast a net of misleading statements that led to widespread media reporting of a major “policy shift.” The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. For a real critical analysis of the Obama strategy read DPA Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann’s April 14, 2010 testimony to Congress … (full long text).

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