Pubdate: Mon, 09 Nov 2015
Source: Independent  (UK)
Copyright: 2015 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Ian Birrell


There can be no doubt that the daft war on drugs is devastating many 
of the world's poorest countries, from Africa to Latin America. But 
this has been ignored by major charities that claim to campaign for 
international development, presumably for fear of upsetting their 
donors. Now one has broken ranks, with the release of an important 
report from Christian Aid condemning what it calls "a blind spot in 
development thinking".

Christian Aid deserves credit for taking a stand, one which has 
caused internal palpitations. The report itself highlights the 
hypocrisy of successive British governments that have poured money 
into aid yet supported the prohibition ripping apart poor 
communities. One day they will see that sanctimonious talk of saving 
the world is not a solution to complex problems.

Yet the charity's courageous move is just one more sign of how fast 
attitudes are shifting on this issue.

The world's drug warriors face defeat - and they are being beaten 
back by insurgents in unexpected places, as we saw again last week. 
In Mexico - a land cursed by drug cartels - the nation's top judges 
declared the prevention of cannabis use to be an infringement of human rights.

This paves the way for legalisation; four similar rulings will force 
an official review into a trade that provides perhaps a quarter of 
the profits for some of the planet's most savage gangsters.

Then, in Ireland, traditionally seen as a conservative country under 
the influence of Catholic clerics, ministers are moving towards 
decriminalisation of all narcotics.

Aodhan O'Riordain, who oversees the country's drugs strategy, 
revealed that there is strong consensus on a "cultural shift" to 
tackle addiction.

First will come plans to establish "shooting galleries", where heroin 
users can take their fix under medical supervision. This follows nine 
other Western nations with similar set-ups, which are shown to reduce 
infection and overdoses.

And now Canada has a prime minister whose election-winning platform 
includes a pledge to legalise cannabis. "To ensure that we keep 
marijuana out of the hands of children, and the profits out of the 
hands of criminals, we will legalise, regulate and restrict access," 
says Justin Trudeau's party manifesto.

The logic is correct  though precisely the same argument applies also 
to cocaine, ecstasy and heroin. Yet, for all the excitement in 
Ottawa, the nation will only be following a lead set by Uruguay.

Even in the United States, where a president who turned out to be a 
crook (that's Nixon) launched the worldwide war on drugs, there is 
fast progress as voters force change on their leaders.

Yet one country is missing from these moves  though led by a prime 
minister who once espoused a more sensible approach.

Now David Cameron claims the British stance is working, adds scores 
more substances to the banned list and rules out even cannabis 
decriminalisation, despite revelations that the cash-strapped 
Treasury says it could raise useful sums in tax while cutting costs 
for police and prisons.

Given Britain's blinkered approach, it is both unsurprising and 
depressing that last year saw the most deaths from drug poisoning 
since records began, with substantial rises in mortality linked to 
cocaine and heroin.

How sad that a country for so long a leading player on the 
international stage, which still claims to be a global force for 
good, remains stuck in the past on this vital issue.

The end of the worldwide drug war is nigh. And when Britain realises 
its current approach does more harm than good, it will rejoin the 
ranks of enlightened nations.
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