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September 12, 2005 - The Sun (UK)

Why Not Legalise Drugs...It Worked Fine The Last Time

By Tony Partington - Associate Night Editor

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

"E's are good, E's are good. Good value, anyway. If you like that sort of thing.

It's 50p for an ecstasy tab in Portsmouth and 80p in Cardiff as drug prices tumble on the street.

In London, they're offering super-market-style deals. Two ukp10 bags of heroin and a ukp10 bag of crack for ukp25, according to a nationwide survey. That's almost a three-for-two.

It's hardly surprising Tory hardman David Davis would seize on this as "a shocking indictment of Labour's absolute failure to tackle the scourge of Drugs."

Much more surprising to find he has a rival for the Tory leadership who is seriously asking if all drugs should be legalised.

The man who's put his head above the parapet is David Cameron, at 38 the youngest and poshest of the leadership contenders.

He suggests governments might take control of the supply and quality of drugs. By making drugs legal and supplying them ourselves, we could collapse the black market and put dealers out of a job.

The State as the ultimate drug dealer. And this from the ultimate Tory Boy.

Now that really is mind-bending.

Would it work? Could it work? I frankly admit I don't know. But let's take the argument for a spin.

Cameron describes his ideas on legalisation as "fresh thinking and a new approach". They're nothing of the sort, really.

Up until the late Sixties, the law had little to say about people addicted to heroin. They got prescriptions for it from their family doctor, just enough to keep them quiet. Addicts were regarded as creatures to be pitied rather than prosecuted, and there were only a handful of them.

This tolerant disapproval of drugs was highly successful and became worldwide as The British Method. We've had legal drugs, and it worked. What we're really talking about is more a case of re-legalisation.

In the late Sixties, at America's urging, we and many other countries signed up to the War On Drugs.

All over the world, drugs were outlawed and users and dealers prosecuted and imprisoned. Kids were urged to Just Say No.

Illegality gave drugs an extortionate value, far more than the worth of their ingredients. Even in today's buyers' market. 50p may sound cheap for an ecstasy tab, but what does it cost to produce? Pennies, probably. There's still a big profit there. Somebody thinks it's good business.

It's this inflated value of drugs which is behind the harm they do to society as a whole.

It's the inflated value that makes dealers think it worthwhile to wage murderous turf wars on our streets and hang around school gates looking for customers.

it's the inflated value that drives addicts to rob and burgle the rest of us to pay for it.

The cost of all this to society, when you include the millions we spend on police and customs operations and imprisoning people, is horrifying. Quite apart from the human misery involved.

Making seizures doesn't help. Supply goes down and the price inevitably goes up. More crime is committed to pay for more expensive drugs. If we don't make seizures and there's plenty around, pushers simply redouble their efforts to get more people hooked and maintain cash flow.

It's not as if we are winning the War on Drugs. The latest UN report shows 200million drug users worldwide up 15 percent on last year. Dealers raked in ukp177BILLION, more than the economic output of 90 percent of nations.

Price is the key to all this.

If government-controlled drugs were cheaply available, might it not cut through his hideous vicious circle?

Users wouldn't need to fund their habit by making our lives hell. Dealers, meanwhile, would find nobody to buy their overpriced, adulterated wares.

We could spend every penny saved from enforcement and imprisonment and drug-related crime on treatment, prevention and educating people not to take the stupid things in the first place.

I'm not saying legalisation is definitely the right thing to do. Neither is Cameron. He's saying The Drug Laws Don't Work. And it's difficult to argue with him. Bravely, he's risked the wrath of his own party by wondering aloud if it might be time to begin thinking about legalisation.

Could he possibly - just possibly - be right? This news brought to you by

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