Pitfalls To Lifting Drugs Prohibition 

Pitfalls To Lifting Drugs Prohibition 
Posted by FoM on July 03, 2001 at 20:32:31 PT
By Owen Bowcott
Source: Guardian Unlimited
Ending prohibition has been politically unthinkable for so long that few politicians have contemplated what licensing framework or health safeguards would be required to legalise different classes of controlled drugs. But amid signs that a public debate is beginning - Sir Keith Morris, former British ambassador to Colombia calls in the Guardian today for cocaine to be legalised - organisations are putting forward proposals for alternative regimes. 
The problems are legion. Who would sell the drugs and how? Should there, for example, be more stringent testing to prevent pilots flying after taking cocaine? Would additional checks be needed to detect drug users driving under the influence of hallucinogens? Inevitably, in a world committed to stamping out the drugs trade, the situation would become more complicated if Britain were alone in attempting to decriminalise or legalise drugs. The Netherlands, which has permitted the sale of cannabis since 1976, has recently experienced an even greater influx of drug buying by people crossing over from neighbouring Germany at the weekend. Earlier this summer Dutch officials unveiled plans to open two licensed drive-through coffee shops selling to tourists on the outskirts of the border town of Venlo: all of the Netherlands' 1,500 coffee shops have been selling their soft drugs to hemp fans with time on their hands. Transform, a Bristol organisation leading the campaign for drug legalisation, accepts the need for change "within a regulated control framework". Different drugs, it says, would require different regimes; the more dangerous the drug, the more controlled the outlet. Steve Rolles, campaign coordinator for Transform, said: "There are various models in place already. There's licensed retailing in pubs or tobaccanists which enforce age restrictions, there are over-the-counter sales by trained pharmacists who give health advice, and there are doctors' prescriptions. "Something like heroin or cocaine might be available on prescription. Heroin is already a legal medical drug, and regulatory frameworks exist for licensed drugs and medicines which allow control over production, price, quality and packaging. Is there any benefit to giving monopoly control of this lucrative, dangerous market to organised crime and unregulated dealers?" Providing drugs education would be necessary. "Taboos around illegal drugs have meant education programmes have been misleading and ineffective. An expansion of drugs in formation services with a more balanced approach could address the shortcomings." Britain is a signatory to the 1988 United Nations' conventions against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, Mr Rolles pointed out. This treaty limits the potential for legalising certain chemicals, and though there is leeway for relaxation, the convention may have to be challenged. The treaty requires countries to make possession, purchase or cultivation of illicit drugs for personal consumption a criminal offence, but it does not specify the penalty. Many countries have found room for manoeuvre within the convention. In Italy it is not a criminal offence to share drugs with others with no payment involved. In terms of controlling anti-social behaviour, British traffic laws already make it illegal to drive "when unfit through drink or drugs". According to the Home Office, there were 92,486 successful prosecutions in 1999; of those, only 1,800 were against drivers found to be unfit through drugs. The question of who profits would also have to be addressed. If drugs earnings were taxed, would the government earmark the income for the health service? Could producers advertise? Should there be tighter restrictions than those imposed on advertising tobacco and alcohol products? Release, the drugs advice charity, has long advocated a royal commission to examine drugs laws. "There couldn't be a legislative shift until the population at large appreciate that someone who is on heroin, for example, should not be scapegoated," said Grainne Whalley, of the charity. Last year, the Runciman committee examined the case for overhauling the main instrument for control, the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. Among the committee's 80 recommendations were proposals to move cannabis from category B to C, making possession a non-arrestable offence. It also suggested ecstasy should drop a category, from being a class A drug, to a class B. It recommended neither decriminalisation nor legalisation. Australia showed how hard it is to shift opinion. This year its first legal heroin-injecting room, the largest "shooting gallery" in the world, opened in Sydney's red-light district. This 18-month trial hopes to cut drug overdose deaths, which soared from six in 1964 to 958 in 1999. But the scheme took two years to establish and had to overcome criticism from both the Australian prime minister and the Pope. Note: Debate grows on legalisation, as campaigners spell out the difficulties.Over 30% of Britons Arrested are Drug Abusers Author: Alan Travis, Home Affairs EditorMore than 30% of people arrested have a heroin or crack habit, according to Home Office research which reveals the extent to which drug addiction is fuelling the crime rate. Official research based on interviews with 9,214 people identified as problem drug users arrested in the last quarter of 2000 also shows that they were spending an average of 300 a week on their habit. The findings also show that while nearly two thirds of those interviewed say that their main income source was from social security benefits, some 40% also said they had significant income from shoplifting. Only one in five of those interviewed had any form of legitimate paid work. The Home Office figures are based on data from the first three months of the "arrest referral scheme" under which problem users who are brought in by the police are referred to drug treatment courses. The figures show that current drug treatment programmes are not reaching at least half of the drug misusers who are involved in crime. The results show 45% had never received any kind of drug treatment before their arrest. The research confirms that drug abuse is one of the biggest drivers of crime in Britain. More than half of the problem users arrested admitted to using heroin in the previous 30 days, 35% had used cannabis, 28% alcohol and 20% crack cocaine. Previous research shows that heroin and crack cocaine abusers account for 30% of all people arrested. The overwhelming majority arrested are male (84%), white (89%) and of an average age of 27. They were mostly arrested for petty property crimes involved in raising money to fuel their habits. Some 24% had been arrested for shoplifting, 16% for selling or possessing drugs, 10% for burglary and 9% for other forms of theft. Some 84% had convictions for previous offences. Women were more likely to have been arrested for shoplifting and men for burglary. Women who were arrested spend more on the drug habit - 316 a week on average - than men who spend 252 a week. The researchers suggest that the difference may be accounted for by the fact that women were more likely to report use of the more expensive heroin, methadone and crack cocaine while men said they were using amphetamines, ecstasy, cannabis and alcohol. The arrest referral schemes from which the official data was drawn were set up in April last year and 330 workers are operating in police custody suites to identify problem drug users as they are arrested and to refer them for treatment. 'I Smoke a Pipe Which is Far More Dangerous'Author: Jeevan VasagarVerity Fletcher, 35, full-time mother of three-year-old Myrtle: "Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol. It relieves pain in a few major illnesses. Cocaine is much more addictive, but all drugs should be legalised. On cocaine I would say yes, but a qualified yes." John Bosworth, 69, retired RAF navigator: "Put me down as a 'don't know'. I don't feel I know enough about it. I definitely think hard drugs ought to be still illegal. A lot of criminality is to finance drugs. [Legalisation] is a very dangerous experiment. If it fails it could be disastrous." Rowan Crowley, 48, publishing director: "I think it is a complete waste of time prosecuting. Cannabis should be legalised and taxed like cigarettes. I think there are bigger issues about cocaine. I'm not so clear in my own mind about the addictive quality of cocaine." Olive Christie, 37, carer: "I think cannabis does damage to people, mental damage. If it is legalised, schoolchildren would get hold of it. Cocaine should not be legalised. It is damaging to families." Winston Richards, 33, jeweller:"I think that crack cocaine should be very much illegal and the police should hit out strongly against it... But ganja has been used by so many people from ancient times. I am a Rastafarian man and use it for religious purposes." William Borlase, 73, archaeologist: "I've never actually taken cannabis but I've smoked a pipe all my life which is far more dangerous. There's no reason why we shouldn't deal with cannabis as they do in the Netherlands - there's nothing wrong with the Dutch. It's not a good idea to legalise cocaine. I'm against legalising the synthetic drugs like ecstasy." Brian Studak, 30, designer:"I think it would be good if there was some kind of halfway house on cannabis. I think decriminalising makes sense. The approach in Holland made a lot of sense. I've been there and it was just a lot of chilled out people. I don't think cocaine should be legalised. It's not a positive drug, it's an ego drug. It makes people very selfish." Jo-ann Hart, 22, executive assistant in PR: "I would be against legalising cannabis. It would be like saying it's all right to be drunk all the time. We seem to have enough problems with kids taking drugs. On cocaine I would say no. It seems to have become a lot more socially acceptable and I know a lot more people now who take it. I'm just not happy with drugs being legalised." Dee Williams, 42, cleaning supervisor: "If you legalise cannabis what's going to be next? I've got two children and their futures are at stake. Cocaine should definitely not be legalised, It is dangerous in the eyes of the law. Once a substance is prohibited it should stay that way." Bryan Bale, 57, designer: "I think anything that's forbidden always makes young people want to do it more. I don't think society should make up people's minds for them. I worked in Holland where it is not forbidden and I think Dutch society is more sophisticated than ours. I don't think hard drugs should be legalised because in my experience when people start to take hard drugs it is definitely a downward spiral." Source: Guardian Unlimited, The (UK)Author: Owen Bowcott, Alan Travis & Jeevan VasagarPublished: Wednesday July 4, 2001Copyright: 2001 Guardian Newspapers LimitedContact: letters Report: Drugs in Britain War Is Unwinnable Articles - UK 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #6 posted by Robert Schwartz on July 04, 2001 at 14:29:25 PT:
Wisdom for the Fourth
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."Thomas Jefferson - Declaration of Independence "Hemp is of the first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country."Thomas Jefferson"What was done with the seed saved from the India Hemp last summer? It ought, all of it, to have been sewn again; that not only a stock of seed sufficient for my own purposes might have been raised, but to have disseminated the seed to others; as it is more valuable than the common Hemp." George WashingtonWritings of Washington, Vol. 35, pg. 72 "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759. "Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded." Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. President.Speech, 18 Dec. 1840, to Illinois House of Representatives"Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself." President Jimmy Carter, Message to Congress. August 2, 1977 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by FoM on July 04, 2001 at 09:45:10 PT
Guardian Talk - Online Debate 
Hi Everyone,Sometimes a link won't work that has WebX in it but the bottom link will. I won't know if it will work until I post it. I'm impressed with what it going on in England! British ex-Colombia ambassador says legalise all drugs. Talk to him here NOW Started by GuardianTalk at 09:03am Jul 4, 2001 BST  .ee85568Sir Keith Morris, who served in Bogota from 1990-94, argues in a Guardian article that the drugs war "is unwinnable, costly and counter-productive". He urges an end to prohibition and the establishment of a controlled, legal framework in which drug sales would be taxed for the common good. Read more at: Sir Keith will be online here at 3pm, Wednesday July 4. Post your questions and messages now... 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by Lehder on July 04, 2001 at 08:06:39 PT
american science and engineering
nice x-ray pictures drivers can now be fined up to 2,000 for each stowaway found on board and may have their vehicles confiscated. But many drivers have voiced angerover the scheme, saying it is difficult for them to tell if someone is hiding in their vehicle. a lame excuse. just how difficult is it to tell if you have extra people in your rig or contraband hiding in your rectum? what can you do about it? well, before disembarking you could submit to the model 101XL's x-ray chopper wheel. right, fear god.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by Jose Melendez on July 04, 2001 at 07:55:05 PT:
more proof that tobacco is the gateway
NCJ Number: 186769 Title: Association Between Cigarette Smoking and Drug Abuse in the United States Journal: Journal of Addictive Diseases Volume: 19 Issue: 4 Dated: 2000 Pages: 11 To 24 Author: Shenghan Lai M.D. ; Hong Lai M.P.H ; J. Bryan Page Ph.D. ; Clyde B. McCoy Ph.D. Editor: Barry Stimmel M.D. Format: article URL: Publication Date: 2000 Pages: 14 Type: Studies/research reports Origin: United States Language: English Annotation: The article attempts to discover the relationship between the use of cigarettes and the use of illegal drugs through a national cross-sectional survey. Abstract: Cigarette smoking has been identified as an independent risk factor for many human diseases. However, the association between cigarette smoking and illegal drug use has not been thoroughly investigated. The 1994 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse was analyzed to clarify whether cigarette smoking has any effect on the initiation of illegal drug use. Data from 17,809 respondents completing the 1994 questionnaire were analyzed. Logistic regression analyses were performed with the use of statistical package SU-DAAN, taking into consideration the multistage sampling design. The results show that those who had smoked cigarettes were far more likely to use cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. The associations were consistent across age strata and remained after adjusting for race and gender. This study suggests that cigarette smoking may be a gateway drug to illegal drug use. References Main Terms: Drug abuse causes Index Terms: Drug dependence ; Drug use 
Looking for drugs? buy cigarettes, Propecia, Viagra, more at
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by aocp on July 04, 2001 at 07:10:06 PT
fun math
Nate said: Tobacco and alcohol kill far more people than marijuana ever did.I believe it's over 400K americans die every year from tobacco use. Over 100K americans die every year from alcohol-related fun times. Number that die annually from cannabis: 0. This alone should be cause to rip the drug war to shreds, but somehow, it remains moot. Curiouser and curiouser...
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Nate Robinson on July 04, 2001 at 00:50:41 PT:
Legalization of cannabis
"I think the fact that cannabis is still illegal is absolutely rediculous. People who have never used it overestimate the dangers of it. Tobacco and alcohol kill far more people than marijuana ever did. I think it should be sold and taxedjust like either one of them. Its time for a change, and the time is now. 
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment