Pity the British establishment. Like their American counterparts, they keep insisting — against all evidence — that they're winning the war on drugs, that drugs are an unimaginable scourge and far worse than tobacco or booze, and that the real problem is that we're not jailing enough addicts for long enough. Despite this, well-informed, respected people continue to publicly state that the war on drugs is a public health, economic, and legal disaster. Last time, it was UK Drugs Czar David Nutt, who called banning marijuana and psychedelics "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo" and wrote an amazing book about the awful state of drug policy.
Now, Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, one of the UK's most senior police officers, has published an editorial in the Observer comparing the war on drugs to the American alcohol prohibition of the 1920s and 1930s. He calls for drugs to be legalised, so that their sale will no longer fund criminal gangs, and for the NHS to distribute drugs — including Schedule A drugs (cocaine, morphine, mescaline, LSD, oxycodone, psilocybe mushrooms, and many others).
If you started to give a heroin addict the drug therapeutically, we would not have the scourge of hepatitis C and HIV spreading among needle users, for instance. I am calling for a controlled environment, not a free for all. In addition, I am saying that people who encourage others to take drugs by selling them are criminals, and their actions should be tackled. But addicts, on the other hand, need to be treated, cared for and encouraged to break the cycle of addiction. They do not need to be criminalised.
The approach to banned substances contrasts sharply with our attitude towards alcohol. I am deeply disappointed that the government has not followed through on its initial support for a minimum price for alcohol. In the north-east we suffer immense inequalities in health and life expectancy due to alcohol addiction. Is it fair that alcohol-related crime and licensing costs society in my own force area alone at least £65.8m a year?