Pubdate: Wed, 19 Jan 2005
Source: Financial Times (UK)
Copyright: The Financial Times Limited 2005
Author: Danny Kushlick


Sir, What a refreshing change to hear such a well argued case for 
legalising drugs ("The unwinnable war on dangerous drugs", January 15).

However, there is no evidence to suggest that legalisation would produce 
poor results with regard to public health.

On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence to show that drugs prohibition 
has an enormously detrimental effect upon public health, particularly in 
respect of injecting drug users. For instance, it was the HIV pandemic that 
caused the Russian Federation to decriminalise personal possession of all 
drugs in 2004. Added to which the Dutch, with a far more available source 
of cannabis, have half the level of use compared to the UK.

The logical extension of the argument that prohibition increases public 
health would lead us to prohibit alcohol and tobacco, and we know from the 
US experience what the consequence of this would be.

We should legalise and regulate drugs precisely because they are dangerous, 
not because they are safe. At any rate one has to wonder if an increase in 
use is a price worth paying for the vast reduction in organised and petty 
crime, street prostitution, street dealing, corruption, civil war, and 
support for terrorist organisations that would result from the legalisation 
of coca and opium based products.

It is parochial in the extreme to support the global prohibition of a small 
selection of psychoactive substances (with all the attendant costs that 
this brings, particularly to producer countries) to achieve a marginal 
reduction in domestic drug use. At the least the government should 
undertake an impact assessment of the costs (and benefits) of our 
commitment to global prohibition and the alternatives.

Danny Kushlick, Director, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Bristol BS5 0HE 
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