"The war on drugs is failing: addiction requires treatment, care and regulation of supply chains rather than punishment."

September 2, 2017 12:57 PM
By Marko Scepanovic; Chair of Crawley Liberal Democrats

UN reports in recent years have criticised the approach by governments in tackling drug related crime. It is clear that much like the prohibition on alcohol in the 1920's in the USA; the linking of drugs to the criminal justice system is failing those who are caught in its cycle. Addiction requires treatment, care and regulation of supply chains rather than punishment.

My worry has been that the debate over drug reform continues to be void of factual analysis and a failure to admit that the existing approach is not working. Looking solely at the current debate over legalisation of Marijuana, more needs to be done to explain that Marijuana will never be removed from society, but how we manage it makes all the difference to the user.

Legalisation of Marijuana does not mean that the drug will be available to children and that there will be a 'free for all' in its supply. The process would be very similar to how alcohol and tobacco are currently regulated and sold in the UK. A shift in resources and policy towards other governmental departments aside from criminal justice and policing would however be required. For example, trading standards agencies would be involved to monitor quantity and quality of the product, and licensing processes set up so that businesses can apply sell it.

Reports into drug abuse often cite a lack of control over the quality of the product as a major issue, leading to synthetic drugs which are often more dangerous to users. Legalisation and regulation of the product would reduce this danger dramatically. A complete eradication of the threats to users and the public at large can never be achieved, but this is the most effective way of minimalising the risk.

Turning to the care side, addiction to Marijuana would be treated akin to alcohol addiction. Trained healthcare and mental health professionals would be effective replacements to the existing prison and police staff who currently have to care and monitor prison members. Furthermore, there would be reductions in prison numbers, and therefore associated costs to tax payers, as repeat offenders would instead go to rehabilitation clinics.

Revenues from the sale of Marijuana would contribute towards the shift in resources towards rehabilitation and regulation. One million hours of police time are being wasted each year on policing the ban on smoking Marijuana, and so legalisation would free up police time to deal with more serious crimes.

Drug legalisation is never an easy argument to make, or agree with but banning something because of its potential problems is a dangerous knee jerk reaction which so far politicians have failed to understand, particularly in this context. Politicians must be honest with the public and put forward solutions such as this which may not always appear popular, but are in fact effective and life saving.