Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Andy McKay (DP008)

I write to you today from outside the Westminster bubble, and aside from the pressures of political office to warn you that prohibition has inevitably failed. Many millions up and down the country do drugs every week, some with relatively harmless outcomes, others with outcomes disastrous to local communities full of ordinary people.

It would be stupid to pretend that the decriminalisation of some or all drugs would result in some unachievable haven of zero usage. Humans are and have always been experimental creatures and drugs will be smoked, injected, swallowed and whatever else regardless of law. In fact, many of your colleagues in parliament are proof of this having dabbled in their youth with cannabis. However, what decriminalisation can do is reduce drug related crime, reduce the instance of drug related health issue and reduce hard drug usage.

Drug related crime is a huge issue. Every year billions is needlessly poured into cartels who use it to fund their other endeavours. It has been estimated in the past that as much as £6 billion is spent each year by British citizens on cannabis alone. All of this goes in the pockets of gangs to fund gun crime and trafficking among other offences damaging the UK as a whole financially and morally. This rips apart communities as gangs compete for supply routes and trade. This financial cost does not even include the hundreds of millions a year spent tackling drugs supply in the UK. To decriminalise drugs such a cannabis would give those who wish to experiment (as people inevitably always do) a non-pressured way to purchase cannabis which does not contribute to funds which support countless misery to many people around the world. It would also be in a relaxed environment where no pressure is felt by dealers who want to push harder drugs. If cannabis was legalised it could be taxed and the money used to actually solve the problem of hard drug usage. Countries like the Netherlands where a more relaxed approach to soft drugs like cannabis has been taken experience a much lower rate of problematic and hard drug usage than comparable countries.

Crime by those individuals addicted to harder drugs such as heroin is also a massive issue. However, more relaxed supply clinic trials in the past have led to a massive reduction in crime within areas in which the trials have taken place as well as a reduction in heroin usage which can only be a good thing for the individual and the community.

Health issues are also a problem, especially where needles are in usage leading to the spread of HIV among other conditions. Also, as the industry is unregulated and run by those who only have their eye on their margins and not on their “customers” welfare, many drugs are cut with other much more damaging substances leading to larger problems than taking the original drug would have led to in the first place.

In the past, governments have ignored the advice of experts, even going as far as to sack one (Professor David Nutt) for speaking from his expert view. I urge you this time to look at the evidence from a neutral standing point to come up with a policy which does not lead to higher rates of hard drug usage and the funding of criminal gangs.

We both want the same thing. We both want the lowest incidence possible of problematic drug usage from alcohol, cannabis, tobacco, heroin, cocaine and any other drug going. But prohibition only aggravates the problem and the state of the UK relationship with drugs is only evidence to this. When it is easier for a young person to buy cannabis than it is to purchase tobacco or alcohol, it is evident that something is very wrong. A new direction is needed if a solution is wanted. To avoid the correct, but brave decision would be to sentence the problem to further escalation. Do not be afraid of the knee-jerk reaction and make a recommendation that is right for the UK and it’s communities in the long term.

December 2011

Prepared 8th December 2012