Pubdate: Thu, 14 Mar 2002
Source: Daily Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: 2002 Telegraph Group Limited
Author: Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor


A POLICE chief said last night that it was time to concede defeat in
the "war against drugs" and make them all legal to stop pushers making
vast profits from their sale.

Richard Brunstrom, Chief Constable of North Wales, said the reasons
why drugs were illegal had been "lost in the mists of time" and ought
to be reconsidered. "What is the problem?" he said. "If you're not
mugging old ladies and stealing from shops and not stealing cars, what
is the problem? Why shouldn't you be taking drugs? That is the
question we need to be asking ourselves - why are these things
illegal? What is the purpose behind it?"

It is not the first time that Mr Brunstrom has taken a radical view on
Britain's drugs laws. Last year, he called for a Royal Commission to
take a fresh look at the whole issue and last month he said heroin
addicts should be prescribed the drug free of charge.

But his comments on Channel 4 News were the most outspoken yet from a
senior police officer and come as MPs are drafting a report on drugs
laws. The Government is also preparing to reclassify cannabis from a
Class B to a Class C drug, while keeping it illegal.

Mr Brunstrom said Britain had the harshest drug laws in Europe and yet
also had "by far the worst drug abuse problem". He added: "We haven't
got it right and in my view we are losing the war."

He argued that it was illogical for drugs to be illegal on health
grounds when alcohol and nicotine were not and caused just as many
social problems. "There is no doubt that there is an appalling toll of
human misery caused by drugs," he said. "My proposition is that much
of that is caused by their illegality and not by the drugs."

Mr Brunstrom said if drugs were legal their street value would
plummet, making it impossible for organised crime to make huge profits
and reducing the need for drug takers to commit crimes to feed their

"Drugs are freely available and we're handing all profits to
criminals. If you are going to be a drug addict surely it is better to
have controlled drugs of known purity with proper advice rather than
buying something unknown from a stranger on a street corner and paying
money to the criminals for the privilege. This is not sensible."

Mr Brunstrom said the whole notion of drugs as evil substances had to
be rethought.

Other chief officers have spoken of the need for greater flexibility
in the drugs laws. Mr Brunstrom indicated that he had been given a
free rein to speak out on the subject to test public reaction.

There had been no calls for his resignation when he proposed a Royal
Commission on drugs and he suggested this was a sign of changing
attitudes. "Perhaps public opinion is shifting," he said.

"I have a duty to uphold the law as it is, not as I would wish it to
be. I don't necessarily agree with several laws that I have a duty to
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