Legalisation is the only way to stop this drugs carnage

Published by The Times (18th April, 2018)

Perhaps our blinkered politicians might try to join the dots. The price of wholesale cocaine in Britain is falling dramatically while purity has risen to levels not seen for decades. As any pupil with the most basic grasp of economics could tell them, this indicates plentiful supply combined with strong competition for buyers.

Now throw in more disturbing data. Deaths in England and Wales from cocaine use have almost tripled in four years and numbers seeking emergency treatment after taking the drug doubled in three years. As gangs fight to control a lucrative market, there is a spike in violent crime with knife and gun offences soaring. London’s murder rate has overtaken New York, while children are forced to work as couriers.

None of this is surprising. Amber Rudd, the hapless home secretary, even admits there is a “strong link” between drug illegality and rising violence. Yet her response is tough talk, more pointless laws and blaming social media. Meanwhile dealers show such confidence they have introduced loyalty cards for customers.

Rudd should look closer to home. One reason for the surge in cocaine strength is a new law giving police powers to seize chemicals used as cutting agents. Instead of disrupting supply this just led dealers to make stronger products. Often crackdowns lead to more harm, more deaths and more waste of public resources.

The history of prohibition proves it fuels gangsterism and forces up potency, from moonshine replacing beer and wine almost a century ago in the United States through to skunk ousting milder cannabis on British streets. Stronger products mean smaller quantities for smuggling, bigger profits and more turf fights.

Now we see the arrival of powerful synthetic drugs made in Asia that are sold online and are more difficult to detect. Skunk is rivalled by spice, causing chaos in supposedly high-security prisons. Fentanyl is starting to carve its cruel course through the heroin market, just as in the US.

When will Westminster accept its lethal failure on this battlefront? We have the highest rates of heroin use and almost one in three of the overdose deaths in Europe. Our mortality rate is ten times that of Portugal, where addiction is treated as a health issue, not a crime. It slashed heroin abuse after decriminalising drugs.

British politicians are acting with criminal incompetence as other countries start to end this stupid war and focus on harm reduction. How many more people must die before they stop blowing public resources, stop aiding gangsters, stop wrecking families and start saving lives by legalising and regulating drug use?

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