More from Critchley on UK Drugs Policy

Further to my earlier post on this, Julian Critchley has written a brief article at Counterpunch.

And he talks a lot of sense:

Eight years ago, I left my civil service job as director of the UK Anti-Drug Co-Ordination Unit. I went partly because I was sick of having to implement policies that I knew, and my political masters knew, were unsupported by evidence. Yesterday, after a surreal flurry of media requests referring to a blog I wrote that questioned the wisdom of the UK’s drug policies, I found myself in the thick of the debate again, and I was sorry to discover that the terms hadn’t changed a bit.

I was being interviewed on the BBC World Service, and after I tried to explain why I believe that drugs should be decriminalised, the person representing the other side of the argument pointed out that drugs are terrible, that they destroy lives. Now, I am a deeply boring, undruggy person myself, and I think the world would be a better place without drugs. But I think that we must live in the world as it is, and not as we want it to be. And so my answer was, yes, I know that drugs are terrible. I’m not saying that drugs should be decriminalised because it would be fun if we could all get stoned with impunity. I’m saying that we’ve tried minimising harm through a draconian legal policy. It is now clear that enforcement and supply-side interventions are largely pointless. They haven’t worked. There is evidence that this works.

On Gordon Brown’s mentalist policy of reclassifying cannabis from C to B:

Unfortunately, evidence is still not a major component in our policy. Take cannabis. When I was in the Anti-Drug Unit, the moves towards making it a class C drug began, and I hoped that our position on drugs was finally moving in a rational direction. But then Gordon Brown ignored his scientific advisers to make it a class B again. It was a decision that pandered to the instincts of the tabloids, and it made no sense whatsoever.

Yes, and just about everyone said so at the time. A ridiculously ill-thought out policy with not one iota of real peer-reviewed Science saying that the risks outweighed the benefits.

The case [for legalisation] is overwhelming. But I fear that policy will not catch up with the facts any time soon. It would take a mature society to accept that some individuals may hurt, or even kill themselves, as a result of a policy change, even if the evidence suggested that fewer people died or were harmed as a result. It would take a brave government to face down the tabloid fury in the face of anecdotes about middle-class children who bought drugs legally and came to grief, and this is not a brave government.

I think what was truly depressing about my time in the civil service was that the professionals I met from every sector held the same view: the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those people were forced to repeat the mantra that the Government would be “tough on drugs”, even though they all knew that the policy was causing harm.

This just about sums up the nonsense involved here:

I recall a conversation I had with a Number 10 policy advisor about a series of announcements in which we were to emphasise the shift of resources to treatment and highlight successes in prevention and education. She asked me whether we couldn’t arrange for “a drugs bust in Brighton” at the same time, or “a boat speeding down the Thames to catch smugglers”. For that advisor, what worked mattered considerably less than what would play well in the right-wing press. The tragedy of our drugs policy is that it is dictated by tabloid irrationality, and not by evidence.

For fucks sake, people make decisions about risks in their real lives all the time. Drinking, smoking, not exercising – these are all things, that as adults, we are entitled (and should be supported) to make. The idea that I as an individual should not be able to decide what to imbibe, smoke or if I really want to go guns blazing, inject, is a nonsense. Legalise, Educate, Tax, Support. LETS do it now!. You can even have the slogan for free.

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