Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleSupplementary written evidence submitted by Derek Williams [DP014a]

I would like to make this additional comment to the Home Affairs Select Committee into drugs policy.

At the international conference on Monday 10 September, the chairman Keith Vaz MP introduced the meeting with a list of the harms he claimed were caused by drugs. I was able to make the point in the meeting, but would like to emphasise again that all the harms Mr Vaz attributed to “drugs” were in fact directly caused by the regime of prohibition and the fact that the trade in them is gifted to organised crime.

As an example of this point I would specifically draw the committees attention to a report in the Daily Mail Newspaper dated 12 September:


This article was also carried in other newspapers and despite the spin put out by the police is a graphic illustration of the chaos caused by the present policy. The situation of increasing violence in Liverpool and elsewhere is not caused by the use of cannabis, but by the nature of the supply side. This is exactly the same situation seen during prohibition era America—Al Capone et al. I hope you will understand the futility of ever harsher prohibition and why the only solution to this epidemic of violence is to provide a properly regulated legal supply of cannabis.

Cannabis is now deeply embedded in British society and has been for many years. If there was ever any chance of eradicating it or of preventing it’s normalisation that has long passed. Continued prohibition will now only bring increased violence, fuel organised crime and harm ever more vulnerable people.

In the conference we were told of the attempts to eradicate cannabis from Morocco and this was described as an example of successes. However, this eradication programme and the subsequent drying up of the supply from North Africa has created the home grow market for so-called “skunk”, with all the attendant problems that has created. It is worth remembering that prior to the North African eradication effort, most cannabis on sale here was high in CBD. This move to low CBD “Skunk” cannabis has been claimed to be harmful to the mental health of those at risk of psychosis. Clearly this has been yet another “unintended consequence” of the disaster that is prohibition.

However, whilst I would argue that reform of the cannabis laws is most important for the UK, reform of the drug laws in general is urgently needed.

In the conference we heard of efforts to eradicate the cocaine industry in South America which has claimed some limited success. However we were told, again, of the destructive nature of the cocaine trade without any acknowledgement of the role of prohibition in creating that situation. If cocaine were legally available in the west, it would simply be an export crop in these countries. There would be no FARC, the farmers would get a fair price for their crop, the rain forest would not be destroyed by farmers clearing the land for coca or by the government spraying of herbicides and there would not be the widespread violence we see today.

In addition the countries of Africa would not become “narco states” and the terrible violence we see in Mexico would not be happening.

In conclusion I would also like to formally object to the term “controlled drugs” being used in connection with prohibition. Whatever prohibition can claim to be it is not “drug control”. Drugs can only be controlled by controlling the trade in them and that is impossible under prohibition as the policy actually sets out to prevent any such control. Proper drug control would mean controlling the place where drugs are sold and who sells them; standardising the amounts sold; establishing doses; ensuring high levels of purity and in the case of cannabis regulating (and perhaps limiting) potency in terms of THC/CBD levels. Proper drug control would also enable measures such as age limits for sales and other tactics designed to protect vulnerable and at risk groups.

Prohibition, simply, is not drug control and prohibited drugs are not controlled substances, to use the term “control” in relation to prohibition is little short of deception.

I sincerely hope you will have the courage to recommend a radical overhaul of the prohibition laws relating to drugs and that an end to this prohibition madness is not too far away.

Derek Williams

September 2012

Prepared 8th December 2012