Pubdate: Wed, 12 Dec 2012
Source: Mercury, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2012 The Mercury.
Note: The Independent
Page: 9


PROGRESS towards a sensible drugs policy is glacially slow, but the 
latest report from the Home Affairs select committee on Britain's 
ineffectual prohibition laws suggests the balance of opinion at 
Westminster may be tilting towards common sense at last. Sad to say, 
the government shows few signs of following suit.

Britain's existing laws are indeed, as committee chairman Keith Vaz 
puts it, "not working".

It may be that drug use has dipped slightly in recent years. But one 
in five secondary school children still admits to having experimented 
with illegal substances.

And there are any number of factors outside of government policy that 
explain a drop in usage  including the proliferation of "legal highs" 
none of which constitutes a long-term solution.

We advocate the swift decriminalisation of all drugs. First, there is 
a simple principle: individuals should be free to make their own 
choices, providing they do no harm to others.

But for those not convinced, the practicalities alone surely clinch 
the argument. As Prohibition in the US proved, bans are as 
counter-productive as they are futile. Drugs are no different. The 
deterrent effect of punitive laws is minimal.

Illicit substances are still widely available, and they are less pure 
and more dangerous; meanwhile, parts of the population are 
criminalised unnecessarily, those who need help struggle to find it, 
and those caught out are sent to jails also awash with drugs.

And all this before the rise of drugs-funded global gangsterism is 
even considered. With 60 000 dead in Mexican turf wars alone, and the 
lucrative proceeds of illegality bankrolling criminal activities, the 
sooner so pernicious a symbiosis is broken up the better.

The "war on drugs" was always misconceived. It is time to acknowledge 
that the war that could never be won is now categorically lost.

The select committee's proposals are at least a start. Banning drugs 
has not made them go away. It is time to think again.
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