HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Ex-Drugs Policy Director Calls For Legalisation
Pubdate: Wed, 13 Aug 2008
Source: Guardian, The (UK)
Copyright: 2008 Guardian Newspapers Limited
Author: Duncan Campbell, The Guardian
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


A former senior civil servant who was responsible for coordinating the
government's anti-drugs policy now believes that legalisation would be
less harmful than the current strategy. Julian Critchley, the former
director of the Cabinet Office's anti-drugs unit, also said that his
views were shared by the "overwhelming majority" of professionals in
the field, including police officers, health workers and members of
the government.

He also claimed that New Labour's policy on drugs was based on what
was thought would play well with the Daily Mail readership, regardless
of evidence of what worked. Downing Street policy advisers were said
to have suggested stunts such as sending boats down the Thames to
catch smugglers to coincide with policy announcements.

Critchley - not be to be confused with the late Tory MP of the same
name - was director of the UK Anti-Drug Coordination Unit in the
Cabinet Office, with the job of coordinating government policy across
departments and supporting the then drugs Tsar, Keith Hellawell. In a
contribution to the debate on the "war on drugs" on a BBC website,
Critchley spelled out his reasons for now supporting legalisation and
claimed the government's position is hypocritical. Yesterday
Critchley, who is now a teacher, confirmed that the blog posting
accurately conveyed his views.

"I joined the unit more or less agnostic on drugs policy, being
personally opposed to drug use, but open-minded about the best way to
deal with the problem," he wrote on the blog. "I was certainly not
inclined to decriminalise. However, during my time in the unit, as I
saw more and more evidence of 'what works', to quote New Labour's
mantra of the time, it became apparent to me that ... enforcement and
supply-side interventions were largely pointless. They have no
significant, lasting impact on the availability, affordability or use
of drugs."

He said that his views were widely held in the government but rarely
expressed in public. "I think what was truly depressing about my time
in UKADCU was that the overwhelming majority of professionals I met,
including those from the police, the health service, the government
and voluntary sectors held the same view: the illegality of drugs
causes far more problems for society and the individual than it
solves. Yet publicly, all those intelligent, knowledgeable people were
forced to repeat the nonsensical mantra that the government would be
'tough on drugs', even though they all knew the government's policy
was actually causing harm."

Critchley believed that the benefits to society of the fall in crime
as a result of legalisation would be dramatic. "Tobacco is a legal
drug, whose use is declining, and precisely because it is legal, its
users are far more amenable to government control, education
programmes and taxation." Anyone who wished to purchase the drug of
their choice could already do so. "The idea that many people are
holding back solely because of a law which they know is already
unenforceable is simply ridiculous."

His intervention was welcomed yesterday by drugs law reformers.
"Julian Critchley is one of the brave few to tell the truth about the
failure of prohibition and the need to replace it with a system of
regulation," said Danny Kushlick, of the Transform Drug Policy
Foundation. "It is truly shameful that there are so many more who know
that the war on drugs is overwhelmingly counterproductive, and yet
continue to remain silent, tacitly endorsing a policy that they know
creates misery, degradation and death for millions across the globe."
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