8 Dec 2009

How the UK could manage cannabis and illegal drugs with non-criminal status

"Every little.................... I want chocolate"

It’s taken a while for me to formulate what I think would be a better way to handle Britain’s drug problem, but I might finally have an idea on how to do just that.
I would recommend all to read this bbc article where Portugal’s now 8 year old decriminalisation of all drugs policy has seen a marked improvement in drug use, addiction and knock-on effects such as HIV Aids and other minor ailments, death etc.

So how do you take a nation like Great Britain’s – one where binge is the centrifuge – and introduce a policy whereby people are no longer criminalised by drug use and ridiculous amounts of taxpayer money is spent on a wasted drug war and turn it into a country with sensible policy to help addicts and also to decrease public spending on a system that has irrefutably failed its intended mission - without a huge increase of drug use?

I’m not going to claim hallelujah that I’ve solved the problem, but below is a list of how I think the problems could be alleviated or at least be better dealt with.

1)   HEALTH & CRIME - First and foremost, drugs need to be taken from the crime pool and placed into the health pool. Why drugs are even dealt with as a criminal issue is baffling, when drugs affect the user’s health – not the quality of life of others – which ultimately a crime is – something that negatively affects anyone but the instigator. IE, the instigator is the rapist and the victim is the girl. In drug terms, the instigator is the user and the victim is… also the user? So how does that warrant a criminal label? When it doesn’t negatively affect others, except perhaps the family members of hardened drug addicts which are affected anyway.
The only possible way to do this is to at least decriminalise drugs, so addicts are not afraid to ask their local hospital for help with the fear of the police finding out. My model I will describe, will work on the basis of complete legalisation of cannabis and could equally be applied to all drugs though I do not advocate that any other illegal drugs beside cannabis be handled in this manner, as I only thought of this model with cannabis in mind.

2)   REGULATION – The model in which I picture drugs being handled in a safe, legal manner, is how alcohol is treated already here and how cannabis is treated in the Netherlands (coffeeshops).
While cannabis for one, as an example, is illegal, the purity of the substance is seriously compromised.
A drug dealer could earn £10 from an 8th of an ounce of pure, uncontaminated cannabis. Or he could earn £20 from the same batch – by cutting it in half with whatever undetectable-to-the-naked-eye substance he finds under his kitchen sink.
Some studies have uncovered glass, silicone, washing up powder, sugar, petrol, methyl spirits, rubber, plastic, crude oil, concrete powder (mortar), wood, metals and the list goes on.
While cannabis and all drugs remain illegal, the incentive will always be there for dealers to offer quantity over the quality of their drug. Why would a selfish, criminal drug dealer want to offer a product at a certain price, if he could double or even quadruple his profits by throwing a little Daz brilliant white into the equation?

If cannabis and all drugs alike where handled in regulated outlets (Called ‘Coffeeshops ‘(cannabis only)  in Netherlands and ‘Dispensaries’ (cannabis only) in the USA) then this would mean that contamination is not a requirement, as a legal business will be striving to offer the best product possible, IE, clean and free from pollutants, as there would be no incentive whatsoever for anyone to offer quantity over quality.

3)   THE SOCIETY – So how do we stop our country from degenerating into a drugs-mecca like ‘The Dam’? Well firstly, it’s simple enough to refuse the sale of drugs to people without a living/working/studying visa. IE, simple visitors (tourists) to a country, cannot be served drugs in any outlets.
How do you stop them from getting served? Impose a mandatory display of Passport and PASSPORT ONLY upon purchase – or no purchase – simple as that. Anybody with a permit to live in the UK would also display this as proof that they’re not just popping in for a quick drugs transaction.

4)  THE INDIVIDUAL – So how do you stop your average Joe going into an outlet and purchasing enough drugs to knockout a Roman coliseum? An obvious thought to legalisation is that people will be purchasing mass amounts at a time to mail the drugs to traffickers in other countries, in exchange for cold, hard currency.
Again, it’s simple. Limit the amount of drugs available to any one person at any given time.
While passport display would be mandatory, there could be a ‘stamping’ system, whereby the outlets make note of the user’s passport number and PASSPORT NUMBER ONLY, as this does not give away any personal details and cannot be used in ID fraud, and when a certain passport number tries to buy more than say, £150 worth of cannabis in perhaps five consecutive days, then the alarm bells are rung and the sale is refused.
While some may argue that self discipline is key – well, we Britons aren’t known for our self disciplining abilities.
Also, an 18 year old age limit would apply. NB, I had considered 21 but a large minority of users are aged between 18 and 21 and to force them out of the legal market will only encourage the underground market.

5)   “THE MAN” – Now even though the vast, vast majority of people using the system would be doing so within the law, there will still be the man who wishes to make drugs for those who should not be getting drugs, IE, 10 year olds and anybody outside of the UK with a wallet.
Firstly, this happens anyway and secondly, there are measures that could be taken to ensure this remains highly illegal.
One idea would be to require a license for all who are choosing to grow their own cannabis/other drugs, with limits set in place. For example, in the United States, anybody with a medical marijuana card is given a license to grow up to six plants at a time/2lbs in harvested weight. Those who breach this, lose their license for good and face jail time.
Random inspections on these license holders would not only be beneficial in helping to curb crime, but it would create jobs for these inspector rolls and also it would be a hell of a lot cheaper than shelling out £5.3bn on drugs, as we did last year (2008).
Anybody with a commercial license would be permitted a much higher ceiling (based upon projections?) or no ceiling at all.

Now as I stated, I’m not shouting hallelujah that I’ve figured out some wonderful system to end all our problems and make us all billionaire royalties. All I am trying to do here, is to form an answer to the question I often get asked when fighting the pro-legalisation corner, “What do you think we should do about it then, and how best?”

I’m sure there’s going to be a few areas I haven’t thought about and for that reason I would love love love to hear from any readers as to what amendments could be made to my schematic.

Either way, Portugal and 10 other EU countries have all seen marked improvements by decriminalising ([in some cases and Portugal’s case] – all) drugs, and without a doubt, it’s about time that we in the UK started doing the same for the sake of our wallets and our addicts who are at the minute, afraid to ask for help in a lot of cases, for fear of prosecution. Probably one of the reasons we have so many addicts right now.

Again – comments are greatly welcomed.

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