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Legalising drugs would be a mistake


Ian Oliver, Scottish Daily Mail, 12th April 2006


LEGALISING drugs would be a mistake we would all regret for years to come.Drugs represent a serious and continuing harm and we do future generations no favours by abdicating our responsibilities to deal with them sensibly.

Legalising drugs is not the answer and there is no reasonable argument in favour of making lawful dangerous substances at great social and economic cost.

Those who favour legalisation argue that the "War on Drugs" has been lost and to continue it is a waste of resources that could be used more appropriately.

Superficially, this is an attractive argument but a moment's consideration will reveal the fallacy in this proposal. There are several obvious questions to be asked about legalisation.

  • Should this include all drugs including "Crack" and the methamphetamine equivalent "Ice", which is sweeping out of control in the USA and is now available in London?

  • To which age groups and types of people should they be available?

  • Who will dispense the drugs and do they need to be prescribed?

It appears simple for those who want drugs to be legalised to find evidence' for their argument. The global retail market for illicit drugs now exceeds US$320 billion annually; this figure is greater than the GDPs of nearly 90 per cent of countries. Profits for the traffickers are enormous and they use them in ways that impact on the lives of almost everyone without them being necessarily aware of it.


The adverse global effects are significant. Drug money funds organised crime and international terrorism at the same time as drugs cause major health problems. Between 50 and 70 per cent of UK domestic crimes are drug related. Europe imports 33 per cent of the global supply of all drugs and theUK takes a major share, consequently we have the worst drug problem in Western Europe.


Drug traffickers peddle false information about drugs to dupe us into believing they are not really harmful. It is because of these horrifying facts that many people have been persuaded the only way to deal with the problem is to legalise drugs. By doing so, they say, it will take the profit out of crime and put the traffickers out of business. At a single stroke, so the argument goes, crime would be eliminated,  controlled use would be achieved and drugs could be taxed so proceeds could be applied for treatment of drug dependent people.

But those of us in favour of prohibition point to the huge increase in administrative costs and the additional drain on the health services   that would accrue as a result of de-regulation of addictive and
"mind-altering" substances. Crime will not be reduced and the costs for the criminal justice system will not diminish.


t is nonsense to pretend legalising drugs would eradicate the enormously profitable criminal enterprises that account for between 8-10 per cent of world trade - tax free.It is also foolish to suggest individual drug taking would impose no additional harm to society. It is necessary only to consider the damage that alcohol and tobacco causes.


Additionally, many modern drugs are not only mind-altering, they are permanently brain damaging and can cause problems with the heart and other major organs.Another serious problem that arises is that legalising drugs would convince many people that they cannot be very harmful.It would also increase the availability of highly dangerous drugs .


Legalisation must not be contemplated because this would inevitably harm vulnerable young people. It would also increase dependency and will not diminish their adverse effects.Medical research continuously demonstrates the serious dangers associated with drug use.There is a thriving trade in smuggling alcohol and tobacco, both of  which are legal substances and the same would apply to drugs.


Organised criminals will always find a way of undercutting and defeating a legal regime and their profits will continue.Rather than legalising drugs it would be better to adopt a continuous and high profile public health education campaign against their use and to provide adequate treatment for those affected.The sensible approach to drugs is to do everything possible to reduce addiction, not make it more common.