Mark Easton has posted yet another excellent blog (here) highlighting the absolute nonsense that is government policy regarding drugs prohibition, following Professor David Nutt's latest publication. I am too tired to read the article (I shall do so tomorrow) by Caitlin Elizabeth Hughes and Alex Stevens (here) regarding their analysis of the Portuguese system, however they have drawn some interesting conclusions. They found that following Portugal's decision to decriminalise illicit drug use in 2001:
- small increases in reported illicit drug use amongst adults;
- reduced illicit drug use among problematic drug users and adolescents, at least since 2003;
- reduced burden of drug offenders on the criminal justice system;
- increased uptake of drug treatment;
- reduction in opiate-related deaths and infectious diseases;
- increases in the amounts of drugs seized by the authorities;
- reductions in the retail prices of drugs.
Overall this points to the fact that prohibition just isn't the correct option. It doesn't prevent much drug use and just pushes that use further underground, leading to people less likely to seek help when they need it and having to go to illegal sources to purchase their fix which will probably be of poorer quality and therefore more harmful.
Though I wouldn't care what the evidence suggested to be honest. My stance on drug use is that of freedom of choice not on some cost benefit analysis. I cannot see why a sane consensual adult should not be allowed to chose what they do in the privacy of their own home on the proviso that no other living creature is negatively effected by this. I know I have expressed this opinion time and again but I am a Liberal in this sense.
Unfortunately it will be a long long long time before there is any reform in this area, the government's response to the research that has been published:
"The Government believes the drug classification system works"
Hopefully Portugal will continue their policies and this will show improvements that will allow other countries to follow, I wont be holding my breath for any improvement here though.