Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Gavin Ferguson (DP118)

I am a young undergraduate engineer concerned with our government’s current drug policy and as such would like to submit my opinion regarding the current Home Affairs Select committee inquiry into drug policy and declare my support of the aims of the pressure group CLEAR.

It is my belief that the war on drugs has been carried out for far too long with a pitiful level of progress and a complete disregard for the lives which are ruined in the process of carrying out this harmful policy. The use of drugs (of all kinds) is a completely victimless crime and external problems caused by drug usage are often a direct result of the currently unbending attitude of all authorities concerned towards said usage. For example, a user concerned by their growing habit will often choose not to seek treatment out of fear of persecution and that is when their habit starts to go out of control. I’d like you to consider the situation of Portugal whereby after some successful new laws were passed (essentially decriminalising drug usage) causing the amount of people seeking help for their drug addiction to massively surge. Amongst other positive trends due to this policy, the drug usage as a whole in Portugal went decreased and Portugal now enjoys one of the lowest drug abuse rates in the whole of the EU.

The UK now has a profound opportunity to emulate this progressive policy which has demonstrably improved the lives of others. It is within this context that I wish to provide you with a couple of points which have hugely convinced me that a more liberal attitude to drugs is the only reasonable way forward

1. Impact on the Economy

It is estimated by the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit that a modest tax of £1 per gram of cannabis sold could raise at least £6 billion in tax revenue per year for the UK government. This is a very significant sum of money which the UK government should seriously consider if they are truly sincere in their efforts to reduce the budget deficit. Furthermore, it produces scope for new businesses to develop within the hemp growing industry (a highly useful derivative of the cannabis plant which utilises the non-psychoactive stem of the plant for a wide range of applications) and introduces new competition to the alcohol and tobacco industry. Essentially, this potential new asset to the British economy links seamlessly with the profoundly capitalist idea of increased competition and the promotion of small businesses (embodied in the Conservative’s vision of the “big society”).

2. Increased Governmental Regulation of Cannabis

In our current situation, the UK government has very little to no influence over the narcotics industry short of making a phenomenal amount of arrests. This is due to the obvious fact that drug dealers have very little respect for the law and as such the narcotics industry has no minimum purchase age, no quality control (cannabis can and often is laced with dangerous substances such as melted plastic bags, or more worryingly cocaine) and rather than being sold by shop keepers can often be sold by common thugs (It is worth noting that cannabis is often a major income source for criminal gangs). By legalising cannabis, the UK government can ensure that it is properly regulated with the inclusion of a minimum age, defined areas where substance use is acceptable and the profits raised go to honest businesses rather than dangerous gangs. Such measures can help to ensure that cannabis is enjoyed in a far more socially responsible manner.

3. Use in Medical Applications

Cannabis is largely recognised by professional bodies within the medical industry as a very powerful pain killer and a vital aid in the fight against several known diseases. As a simple sign of compassion to those that needlessly suffer, cannabis should be at the very least legal in a medical capacity to hugely raise the quality of life for numerous patients within the UK.

I realise that many of the above comments may seem rather unsubstantiated without powerful facts and figures to back them up and that is the reason why I have provided links for you which should contain the necessary statistics you need to inform yourself of the above issues.1

Furthermore, the current secretive nature of UK institutions regarding drugs has led to a fundamental lack of understanding of the key issues involved in this debate. Such that the UK populace can make a more balanced decision on this current debate I strongly suggest that the UK government ceases in flouting inaccurate propaganda on this issue which is clearly compounding this issue and instead have a mature and open discussion on what is a very serious issue.

I would like to thank you for the invite to join in this discussion and hope my response is received with an open mind and a mutual willingness to tackle what has been a serious issue in UK society for a long time.

January 2012

1 http://www.soros.org/initiatives/drugpolicy/articles_publications/publications/drug-policy-in-portugal-20110829

Prepared 8th December 2012