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It’s time to talk about the war on drugs

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: January 16, 2014

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ON October 14, 1982, the then US President Ronald Reagan declared war on drugs.

The speech was a precursor to a hard-line approach to the trade and use of illegal narcotics the world over.

It is a policy which has spectacularly failed.

In the 32 years which have passed, law enforcement agencies have not halted the supply of drugs from dealers nor the demand from users.

But it has criminalised large sections of society. Anyone caught in possession of even small amounts can be hauled before the courts and receive a criminal record for their trouble.

The global drugs industry is worth billions of pounds. But the policy of criminalisation means every penny made through the sale of drugs goes back into the pocket of organised gangs which control its trade,

Dealers, in their attempt to cut costs and cut corners, will cut their product.

This poses health risks to the thousands of users who dabble in this unregulated industry.

Last year, about a dozen deaths were linked to a tainted batch of ecstasy pills which - instead of containing the active chemical in ecstasy MDMA - contained PMA, a similar acting, though far more toxic and dangerous chemical.

The people who died after taking what they believed to be ecstasy were victims of the war on drugs.

Making cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy illegal has also led to the rise of legal highs. These are drugs which mimic the effect of their illicit counterpart but which are not outlawed under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The danger here is that the research into the dangers of legal highs has not been carried out yet they can still be bought by anyone with a bank card online and delivered to your home.

It is a system which has turned Royal Mail workers into unwitting drug mules.

Some people will always want to get high, and legal highs provide a way to do so. No one takes legal highs because they think they are safe but because they are legal, cheap and available.

What would be a far more sensible, system would be the decriminalisation and regulation of some illegal drugs.

It would provide millions of pounds in state revenue, just like it has in some US states where cannabis was legalised last month.

Users would also know what they are taking and would not fear receiving a criminal record.

As it is, the Government, like many before it, is pursuing a policy which effectively neglects a duty of care it owes to its citizens.

In my opinion, it’s time for a change.

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