Why can’t we have a sensible debate about legalising drugs…….

This week an eminently sensible person made some eminently sensible statements about the UK’s current drugs legislation. In a newsletter sent out to barristers across the country, Nicholas Green QC, current chairman of the Bar Council of  England and Wales , said that Britain should consider decriminalising drugs. His words were picked up by the Daily Telegraph .This should have provided the platform from which a sensible debate about the drugs issue could be launched. What we got instead was the usual rabid reaction from the moral panic brigade which sought to shoot the messenger before he had a chance to elaborate any further on his hypothesis. Among those leading the charge was Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, who said: “It is is a ludicrous argument to say let’s legalise drugs.” Is it so ludicrous? Right now the illegality of drugs in the UK makes it an economy worth more than £10 billion to the organised crime groups involved in its trade. The devastation to society in terms of  the violence, fear and corruption created by the gangsters dealing in drugs is immeasurable and however effectively you fight the war against the drug barons, there is a plethora of others willing to step into the vacuum created by any successful battles waged by our law enforcement agencies. What is measurable is that illegal drugs costs the UK another £13 billion to police in terms of drug-related crime; much of which is leaving a bloody trail on the streets where gangs are fighting turf wars over the profits to be made from it. In the UK’s prisons alone the drug trade is worth another £100 million, because drugs such as heroin can fetch up to ten times the price inside compared to the price on the streets. There are people being murdered in the UK because illegal drugs equals money and the profits to be made from them make it worth a dealer arming himself with a firearm or knife to protect their business territory. There is no sign either that the illegality of drugs is doing anything to prevent people taking them – in fact quite the opposite – their very illegality continues to create a mystique about substances some of which have been around us for more than 2,000 years. Lets face it illegal drugs are harmful to the health but are there many illicit substances which are more harmful in their health effects and the cost of their abuse than alcohol and tobacco. I know many sensible people in both the legal profession and law enforcement who would not only support a debate on the issue but would actively support a change in legislation because they know that the war on drugs cannot be won from the position we are in right now. However, fearing a tagging as a moral heretic to be burned at the stake, their voices continue to remain publicly silent. Frankly I only see the situation getting worse because career paths are now being laid for our young people which are built on the trade of illegal drugs from the school gates to the housing estates and on to the trendy bars where a trip to the toilet for the affluent middle class member of society is often more about a line of cocaine from the cistern than a leak in the bowl. Nevertheless many respectable people in positions of authority who have thought-provoking things to say about this issue are being silenced because the media is failing to push forward the debate and instead promoting a moral panic. I am unsure myself about the legalisation of drugs but I am sure that at the moment it is the biggest issue facing this country and it is a subject which we should be debating in a sensible way. To that end the Telegraph did eventually have a sensible say on the matter through the column of its blogger and writer  Andrew M Brown.  So let’s try to promote debate not destroy it because we should know by now that hysteria is simply the realm of the ignorant and the misinformed.

Author: Carl Fellstrom

I am a journalist, author and broadcaster covering crime and justice issues

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