Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence submitted by Mick Humphreys (DP161)

1. This covering letter is my response to a call for written evidence for the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) dated 11 November 2011 whose deadline was extended to 7 February 2012 by your e mail dated 20 January 2012.

2. My submission deals with the last paragraph that your webpage which says that the HASC will consider, namely:

2.1.1“Whether detailed consideration ought to be given to alternative ways of tackling the drugs dilemma, as recommended by the Select Committee in 2002 (The Government’s Drugs Policy: Is It Working?, HC 318, 2001–02) and the Justice Committee’s 2010 Report on justice reinvestment (Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94, 2009–10).”

3. I and my wife, Hope Humphreys, both provided written evidence to the HASC committee in 2002.1 One of us was invited by them to give oral evidence as well. My wife did so.2 All this is recorded in the HASC Reports HC 318-I to III dated 9 May 2002.

4. As instructed I attach a memorandum containing my current submission. It is similar to my 2002 because nothing much has been done to improve our drug laws. Nor have many of the important recommendations contained in the HASC HC 318 Volume I been implemented.

5. We are both prepared to give oral evidence if required.

Attachment: Current memorandum for this Report dated 23 January 2012 by Mick Humphreys.3

Executive Summary

1. All the items that the website lists for consideration by the HASC deal with important details, none of which, except the first and last will have any significant effect on dealing with the fundamental issues needed by an effective drugs strategy.

2. Since the first UN Convention came into force in 1961 the universal demand for drugs has increased massively. It has now more or less stabilised at an unacceptably high level.

3. Nothing will change to improve our drugs problems until the monopoly for the production, supply and distribution of all drugs is taken away from those defined as criminals by our drug laws, and brought under effective legal control.

4. When effective legal drugs supply systems displace the criminal system, the possession, use and supply of drugs by consumers will become legal. This inevitable consequence will require our drug laws and the three UN Conventions to be re-written.

5. Once currently proscribed drugs become legally available it will be possible to regulate their purity and safety and the threats posed by drugs laws on consumers will be lifted. This will enable those who are addicted or afflicted by drugs to obtain help and medical assistance without fear either from the law or their suppliers.

6. The financial cost of introducing a legal supply system will be high as will the cost of treatment needed by some users. This will be more than matched by the financial savings made in: reduced enforcement and imprisonment and massive savings made in reduced drugs-related crime and misery.

Brief Introduction

7. I have been campaigning, with my wife Hope Humphreys, since 1995 for our drugs laws to be changed effectively. Nothing really effective at all has been done by Parliament to achieve this.

8. We have both been members of Transform now the Transforms Drugs Policy Foundation (TDPF) since it was founded and we agree in almost every respect with what they advocate. We are completely independent and receive no support, financial or otherwise, from any source whatsoever.

Factual Information

9. It is self-evident that current drug laws, including the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Trafficking Acts, make criminals of anyone who possess, supplies or trades in proscribed drugs. Thus, these laws unintentionally grant the monopoly for drugs laws exclusively to criminals. They achieve the exact opposite of what they intend.

10. Because all proscribed drugs are the products of crime it is impossible to carry out research or provide help for the many people who are adversely affected without obtaining these drugs illegally unless special licenses or permissions are granted. This rarely if ever happens and so ignorance and prejudice, particularly in the media at the legislative level, is profound and perpetuated. People who need help do not get it.

11. People do not creates crimes. Parliament passes laws that create crimes. People then break these laws and thus become criminals.

12. The best way to reduce crime is to repeal criminal laws which are ineffective or counter-productive.

13. The demand for proscribed drugs both here and abroad has massively increased since 1961 when the first of the three United Nations conventions4 was adopted by the UN (United Nations). These conventions demand that all countries pass laws that create criminal offences for possession, supply and trafficking of the drugs which they define.

14. This increase was accelerated in the UK after the enactment of the Misuse of Drugs Act in 1971.

15. The demand for proscribed drugs has recently more or less stabilised at an unacceptably high level. All that changes is that new chemically produced substances (defined by the UN as “psychotropic”) and different strains of cannabis, opiates, fungal and plant derivatives (defined as “narcotics”) are introduced into the illegal market.

16. The system for the production, supply and distribution of all proscribed drugs is entirely controlled by criminals and is one of the largest trades in the world. It is very efficient and is entirely unregulated. All attempts to bring it under control using criminal sanctions have always failed.

17. Although no records are kept of drug-related crimes in this or any other country, because the motives for acquisitive crimes such assault (mugging), robbery and burglary are not recorded, it has been estimated that about 68% of all those imprisoned in the West are there for drug-related crimes.

18. On 9 December 2011 the prison population in England and Wales was 87,297.5 Between 1996 and 2010 this population grew by 29, 746 or 54%.6

19. The average annual overall cost of a prison place in in England and Wales for the financial year 2010–2011 was £39,573. In a secure children’s training centre this rises to £215,000 per annum and in a Young Offender Institution to £60,000.7

20. The UK has the highest numbers of imprisoned people per head in Europe. It is only exceeded by the United States which had over 2.29 million adults imprisoned in 2009.8 In Louisiana one in every 59 people in the State is in prison.9

21. As if this is not bad enough far worse effects have been caused by drug laws granting the monopoly of this trade to people they have defined as criminals.

22. The UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) reports that: “Transnational organized crime is considered as one of the major threats to human security, impeding the social, economic, political and cultural development of societies worldwide. It is a multi-faceted phenomenon and has manifested itself in different activities, among others, drug trafficking, trafficking in human beings; trafficking in firearms; smuggling of migrants; money laundering; etc. In particular drug trafficking is one of the main activities of organized crime groups, generating enormous profits.”10

23. In Mexico 47,515 people have been killed in the last five years by rival drug cartels,11 this exceeds all the uniformed combatants killed in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan by a huge margin.

24. The list of corruption and criminal control goes on and on and on: Afghanistan poppies; lack of medicinal opiates for pain relief, particularly in the USA …There is not enough space in this memorandum to list it. However, everyone knows. It is in the Media every day.

25. It is clear our drug-laws have:

25.1failed to reduce the demand for “illegal” drugs;

25.2created crimes which simply provide opportunities for people to commit them;

25.3created a whole class of criminals who now control a monopoly of one of the largest and most lucrative trades in in the world valued at $332 billion by the UNODC in 2005;12

25.4spawned wars, misery and horrors beyond belief; and

25.5failed completely in their objectives but succeeded in doing the exact reverse of what they intend and fostered, promoted and caused most drug-related crime.

26. Most reformers would like to see proscribed drugs “legalised”, or “de-criminalised” so that the problems associated with drug-related crimes and ill health caused by the contamination of substances and the degraded circumstances in which those afflicted can be dealt with.13 This is what any right-thinking person would want, but it cannot be achieved whilst criminals hold the monopoly for supply. A very few clinics are licensed to administer maintenance diamorphine to addicts. They can obtain their supplies legally because there are just a handful of them. They do not have to hang around on street corners. Effective legal control will mean that huge quantities of safe, legal supplies will be required. It is therefore essential that an effective and legal supply system be the first step in reform. Legalisation must accompany or follow because it is the inevitable consequence of doing so. But it cannot be the first step.

27. It is often maintained that the three UN Conventions,14 prevent proscribed drugs from being supplied under effective legal control. This is completely untrue. Clinics which provide drugs for those requiring treatment or maintenance already obtain and dispense drugs legally. These systems merely need to be extended. However all three conventions do require to be re-negotiated as they no longer deal with the reality.

28. The illegal drugs trade is huge, lucrative, efficient and ruthless. Sometimes huge “busts” are made by police forces or the Navy and they are then lionised in the Press. Usually this has only happened because one gang has shopped another, so that they can take on the “turf”. Gangs manipulate enforcement authorities to adjust the market in their favour. This is reluctantly acknowledged by the authorities as they see prices drop and distribution improve within days of the new gangs taking over. This process also happens at the macro level as evidenced by the shift of opiate production from the Golden Triangle moved to Afghanistan.

29. Most of the people that the law oppresses are the end users not the “drug-barons”: mules, feckless students and defenceless addicts. It is claimed that these people are dealt with leniently, but this is false. In the last 10 years or so there has been some attempt to provide rehabilitation instead of punishment but because most users have not reformed and cannot stop using this is often inappropriate, so it fails. The courts know this, so when it fails, they revert to imprisonment which means that this punishment is still the punishment of first, not last resort.

30. It will not be easy for an effective and legal drug-supply system to displace this system which has prospered and developed since being granted its monopoly by our laws. But it must. The legal system will be attractive, because it will be safe and free from fear of oppression from the law or criminals; but it may not compete in price or speed and convenience of delivery.

31. An effective and legal supply system, cannot expect direct financial reward or funding from drugs sales. For many years it must expect huge, direct costs. HMRC and commercial producers and traders must be restrained in their desire to make money. The long term reward in emptied prisons, reduction of drug-related crime and reduced human misery will be immense.

32. The methods by which and effective legal supply systems have already been researched in great deal over the years largely by the Transform Drug Policy Foundation15 and can be found in their Blueprint for Regulation.16 This provides a starting point for reforming our system.

Recommendations

33. That the de-facto monopoly for the supply of proscribed drugs by criminals be displaced by legal and effective systems using the Transform Blue Print for Regulation as a starting point for action.

34. That in the early years these systems be funded and or subsidised from public funds as required.

35. That it be accepted that, once there is an effective and legal drugs supply system in place, the natural consequence will be that possession, prescription, dispensing, sharing and legal supply of previously proscribed drugs cannot be subject to criminal sanction and that therefore relevant laws and UN conventions will need to be changed.

36. That comprehensive support and medical systems be nationally available to help those who are or become afflicted or addicted to drugs and the whole cost of this be provided from public funds.

37. That the savings in public expenditure that will result from removing criminal sanction, law enforcement, stopping drugs wars etc. be taken into account when providing the public funds required above.

38. That appropriate criminal sanctions be retained to deal with those who continue to produce, supply or distribute drugs outside the legal systems.

February 2012

1 List of Unprinted Memorandum Page 99 of HASC report Vol I dated 9 May 2002.

2 Volume III App 15 Ev 263 HASC Report HC318 dated 9 May 2002.

3 Not printed.

4 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

5 Bromley Briefings Dec 2011 page 4.

6 Bromley Briefings Dec 2011 page 4.

7 Bromley Briefings Dec 2011 page 6.

8 US Justice Bureau of Statistics.

9 BBC Radio 4.

10 www.unodc.org/unodc/en/organized-crime/index.html

11 www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-16518267

12 www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/WDR.html

13 Sir Richard Branson LBC 24 Jan 2012 for example.

14 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 and UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substances 1988.

15 www.tdpf.org.uk/

16 www.tdpf.org.uk/downloads/blueprint/Blueprint_exec_summary.pdf

Prepared 8th December 2012