Submitted by Transform
1. Transform is the leading independent
UK organisation campaigning for a just and effective drug policy.
We exist to minimise drug-related harm to individuals and communities
and believe that this is best achieved by legalising drugs. We
provide authoritative and accurate information to increase understanding,
encourage debate and influence policy.
Our aims are:
To repeal drugs prohibition and replace
it with an effective system of regulation and control.
To establish an independent coordinating
agency to oversee the production, supply and use of all drugs.
To implement ethical practices and
fair trade in drug production and supply.
To eliminate the criminal market
and reduce drug-related crime and violence.
To tax all drugs and redirect criminal
justice expenditure to increase treatment services and education
To promote and protect the health
and well-being of users and non-users alike.
To uphold the civil rights of users
and non-users alike.
To encourage community involvement
in drug policy formation.
2. We have six years experience of lobbying
for drug law reform and our supporters include: Francis Wilkinson
(former Chief Constable), Iain Banks (author of the Wasp Factory),
Paul Flynn MP and Edward Ellison (former head of the Metropolitan
police drug squad).
3. The early seventies were a turning
point in contemporary UK drug policy. There were a number
of factors that coincided to create what is now a massive problem
for all of us.
(i) The end of heroin prescribing to dependent
(ii) The introduction of the Misuse of Drugs
Act 1971 criminalised millions of recreational users and thousands
of misusers (previously patients).
(iii) A massive increase in the prevalence
of drug use. In 1970 there were just over 1,000 heroin users.
By 2000 that figure had grown to at least 200,000.
(iv) An increasing gap between rich and poor
that has fuelled social exclusion.
4. These events conspired to leave the UK
with the highest levels of drug use and misuse in Europe and one
of the most counterproductive policies to manage them.
5. All the evidence shows that UK drug policy
has been an unmitigated disaster. Drug-related crime, death, destruction
of inner city communities, billions in wasted expenditure and
the loss of political autonomy of developing countries are the
price we have paid for global prohibition. Prohibition is a
recipe for disaster. We would be hard pressed to find a system
with a higher propensity to lead to crime, social exclusion, violence,
prostitution and general misery.
6. Research by Transform has revealed that
data is only being collected on one of the 4 key performance indicators
put in place monitor the effectiveness of the UK's 10-year drug
strategy. The only data that is emerging clearly shows an alarming
rise in cocaine and heroin use amongst young people.
The 1998 strategy has 4 key targets for 2008:
So after four years is there any evidence the 10 year strategy
7. Aim 1: Halve the number of young people
using illegal drugs, especially heroin and cocaine.
Reality: This year's European Survey project
on Alcohol and other Drugs showed that compared with 1995, for
all regions of the UK only two drugs showed significantly increased
use by 15-16 year olds. These were heroin and cocaine. A raft
of other surveys (including the British Crime Survey, and Professor
Howard Parker's Drug Futures) have shown that cocaine use is on
8. Aim 2: Halve the levels of re-offending
by drug misusing offenders to protect communities from drug-related
and anti-social behaviour.
Reality: There is no national monitoring
of this indicator and baseline data will not be available until
9. Aim 3: Double the number of drug misusers
Reality: There is still no national monitoring
of this indicator and no baseline data with which to make future
comparisons. The methodology for measuring this indicator will
not be in place until 2002. Huge waiting lists remain in all
regions and despite increased investment (largely administered
through the criminal justice system) the need still vastly outweighs
10. Aim 4: Halve the availability of drugs,
especially heroin and cocaine on UK streets by 2008.
Reality: There is currently no official monitoring
of drug availability, no baseline data and no methodology for
measuring it. Impressive sounding statistics of drug seizures
"prevented from reaching the streets" in reality have
no measurable impact on availability. Data showing falling
price and rising purity of street drugs strongly suggests increasing
availability. Recent data from the national Criminal Intelligence
Service, the Forensic Science Service, and some regional police
test purchasing suggests that cocaine has never been cheaper.
11. In Transform's view prohibition has
caused or created many of the problems associated with the use
and misuse of drugs. As with alcohol prohibition in the US
in the twenties and thirties, drugs prohibition effectively hands
the trade over to organised crime and unregulated dealers. Government
abrogates all responsibility for the management of the supply
side of the market and chaos prevails. The illicit drugs market
is probably the most free and deregulated commodity market on
the planet, constituting nearly 10 per cent of international trade
and valued at £300 billion a year.
Only the legalisation, regulation and control
of the supply side of the currently illicit drugs industry will
enable us to manage the market.
12. Decriminalisation, rescheduling and
depenalisation only reduce the problems on the consumer side of
the trade. It is crucial that we tackle the supply side of
the industry to stand a chance of managing it effectively in any
way whatsoever. This can not be done under existing international
treaties and it would be inadvisable for a single country to do
13. There are six options for controlling
drugs and their distribution listed below.
(a) Free and natural eg raw magic mushrooms,
poppies, fly agaric toadstools, datura, morning glory seeds.
(b) Over the counter salessupermarkets,
grocers, health food shops. eg aspirin, paracetamol, poppers,
glue, St John's Wort, tea, coffee.
(c) Licensed sales eg beer, spirits, tobacco.
(d) Pharmacy sales. eg Kaolin and morphine,
codeine linctus, amphetamine-like decongestants, Dual products
aspirin/paracetamol with dihydrocodeine.
(e) Doctor's prescription eg tranquillisers,
anti-depressants, methadone, chlorpromazine, anti-psychotics,
(f) Criminal marketplace (Prohibition) eg
Heroin, cannabis, speed, crack.
14. Legalisation means simply making
use of one of the first five options. Options (b)-(d) afford Government
many opportunities to intervene in the production, supply and
use of drugs. Option (f)prohibitioneffectively removes
those opportunities. In Transform's view drugs should be legalised
because they are dangerous not because they are safe.
15. Legalisation does not necessarily
mean an increase in availability. In the short term a move
to prescribe heroin to dependent users could actually reduce availability.
16. In the short term, however, a move to
legally retail currently prohibited drugs could mean an increase
in use. The questions are (1) What percentage of this increased
use would be problematic? and (2) What would those problems involve?
Currently 12 million dependent tobacco users pay for their health
care and commit no property crime and the one million dependent
prescription tranquilliser users do not find themselves on drug
treatment and testing orders because their drug of choice is cheap
17. The evidence from Holland (a decriminalised
rather than legalised system) is that their level of cannabis
use is lower than the UK's. The average age of heroin users
in Holland is 36 and rises year on year, whilst in the UK it is
26 and falls each year.
18. Prohibition creates or exacerbates
four types of crime:
Organised crime is handed the illegal
trade on a plate and now makes most of its profits from dealing
Property crime committed by users
to support expensive habits because prices are determined by supply
and demand rather than the Chancellor.
Violence involved in turf wars between
Otherwise law abiding individuals
are criminalised by anti-drug legislation.
All the above are massively reduced or disappear
when drugs are legalised.
A NEW METHODOLOGY
19. An effective drug policy would enable
the following to take place:
facilitate control and regulation
of the drug trade;
reduce drug-related ill health;
reduce drug-related crime;
extend provision of honest and effective
drug education and information;
maximise effectiveness of drug-related
expenditure and taxation of drug trade;
protect civil rights of drug users
encourage inclusion of communities
in drug policy formation; and
20. Up until now our enforcement policy
has gone unevaluated and what evaluation there has been is seriously
flawed. UKADCU now admits that its targets were mistaken.
It is time that we used coherent aims with clear indicators
of success or failure. From the above broad aims we need to
produce a set of indicators that will show success or failure.
For instance: rates of HIV, level of crime related to fundraising,
adherence to human rights instruments, average of users, value
of the illegal market, level of prostitution related to drug misuse
21. In Transform's view, our drug policy,
whether it be criminal justice or health-oriented, should show
success across a series of indicators. The weighting of those
indicators should be decided upon by a multi-disciplinary group
of experts and lay people.
22. We have included a detailed framework
for drug policy implementation in the accompanying document.
23. Government should admit that the war
on drugs has been lost and begin to plan a replacement for prohibition.
Projects that could be put in motion now include:
24. First we need an evidence base to show
what works and what does not. The National Audit Office audit
of Customs and Excise on drug smuggling showed that they made
little or no difference to the availability of drugs in the UK.
We can assume that there are many other areas of activity
that are failing to deliver or producing counterproductive results.
25. Whilst Transform ultimately calls for
the legalisation of drugs, that can only happen in conjunction
with other countries and after the rewriting of the international
treaties. In the meantime, decriminalisation would remove criminal
sanctions from users and enable resources to be focused in more
25. A useful short term measure that serves
two objectives: putting health firmly back in control of misuse
and pointing to the need to reallocate resources from criminal
justice to more effective health expenditure. This is very much
in line with the 1997 research from the National Treatment
Outcome Research Study (NTORS) that showed that for every £1
that we spend on treatment, we save £3 on criminal justice
expenditure. We could start with some small scale studies,
perhaps targeting women sex workers with problematic use.
27. A new agency National Drugs Agency (NDA)
or the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) should begin
to explore alternatives to prohibition. The time has passed to
debate whether we explore alternatives. Now we must investigate
how we control and regulate the drugs market.