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The war on drugs is lost – it’s time to decriminalise them


Is it time to ban booze? A 2010 study in the Lancet showed that alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack when all the harm to individuals and society are considered. We must ban this wicked drug. 

Well, I hear you say, the Americans tried that in the 1920s and it was a disaster. Bootlegging and organised crime became widespread and mobsters like Al Capone were bywords for violence and corruption.Arrests for drunkenness and disorderly conduct increased by 41%, and of drink-drivers by 81%.

The federal prison population increased by 366%, and US Government spending on jails rose by 1,000%. Prohibition cost the federal government $11billion in lost tax revenue, while costing over $300 million to enforce. Income tax rose to replace revenues from alcohol duty.Does any of that sound familiar? Our prisons are overflowing, and half of those in for acquisitive crime stole to buy drugs. Violence on our streets is escalating, and most of it is linked to turf wars between drugs gangs. In May this year London’s murder rate overtook New York’s. 

Hundreds of millions of pounds are spent every year on the so-called War on Drugs, but councils can’t afford to clean the streets and some NHS hospitals have stopped cataract operations. Just over a week ago Hannah Bragg, a 15-year-old from Tavistock, died after apparently taking drugs at an end-of-exam party. She is not the first teenager killed by drugs, and won’t be the last. 

Our own death toll pales into insignificance against the deaths in countries such as Mexico, where last year there were 29,168 murders. The country has struggled with years of violence as the state battles drug cartels, and bloodthirsty gangs fight to control the lucrative American drugs trade.  

Drugs are bad. For the avoidance of any doubt, I’m going to put that in capitals: DRUGS ARE BAD.

READ MORE: The United States wants to ban marijuana nationwide. Many Canadians are flustered next door.

Only one thing is worse, and that is prohibition. The War on Drugs, launched in 1971 by US President Richard Nixon, has achieved much. Here’s a short list: It has used taxpayers’ money to drive up the price criminals can charge for drugs.

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That puts thousands of young people behind a bar, which involves experimenting with dangerous behaviors. Now their health is not only endangered by narcotics but their future is endangered by criminal history It has diverted millions from treatment for addiction to futile enforcement.

Earlier this month the Police Federation called for a rethink on drug enforcement because the present laws aren’t working.Only gutless politicians seem unable or unwilling to acknowledge the truth that’s biting their backsides: we have to abandon prohibition.

A ban on drugs (or alcohol) is futile and foolish. Legislating cannabis is not enough. Imagine that the United States legalized beer in 1933 while still banning the drink. You really are Al Capone’s nickel-plated double-action Colt. Do you think you cut 28 and retired to Florida?