English Drug Reformers Map Route to Post-Prohibition Drug Policy 10/22/04

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In a report issued last week, the British drug reform organization the Transform Drug Policy Foundation (http://www.tdpf.org.uk) has produced a road map to guide policymakers from the failed policy of drug prohibition toward an approach emphasizing regulated markets for currently illicit drugs. Unveiled with the support of parliamentarians, criminal justice experts, and former police officials, "After the War on Drugs: Options for Control" is a veritable handbook for politicians and activists looking to move the debate and the policy-making forward.

Peering into the future, the report argues that within 15 years, most drug users will not be scoring from street dealers in the black market but will instead obtain their drugs from licensed retailers, "specialist" pharmacists, or, in the case of verified medical conditions, by prescription. "If you are around in 2020, the chances are that will see drugs prohibition replaced with a system of regulated and controlled markets," the report boldly predicts. "If Transform's timeline is right, by 2020 the criminal market will have been forced to relinquish its control of the drug trade and government regulation and control will be the norm once more. Users will no longer 'score' from unregulated dealers. They will buy their drugs from specialist pharmacists or licensed retailers. Or, for those with a clinical need, via a prescription. At its simplest, that is what legalisation, control and regulation will mean -- shopping and visiting the doctor. It is simply a question of transferring the policy paradigm of management and regulation to currently illegal drugs. This report provides the detail behind this simple vision," the report says.

While parts of the report, such as the section on the flaws of prohibition, cover familiar territory, "After the War on Drugs" breaks new ground with its detailed breakdown of what a post-prohibition drug control regime could look like and how to get there from here. It also examines harm reduction and treatment in the context of the criminal justice system, finding both concepts good as far as they go, but emphasizing that they are the last gasp of prohibitionism.

"We are looking at the death throes of prohibition," said Transform executive director Danny Kushlick. "Harm reduction measures and drug treatment within the criminal justice system are the last resort of any rational progressive prohibitionist," he told DRCNet. "But harm reduction and treatment cannot achieve the goals people thought they would. They don't influence crime or the availability of drugs or the distortions of the black market."

The problem is not the inadequacies of harm reduction, but prohibition itself, said Kushlick. "Prohibition contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction," Kushlick said. "It does the opposite of what the label says. As drug use and misuse rises despite prohibition, the cognitive dissonance involved in selling such a policy becomes untenable. And because crime is such a key issue here now, the extent to which prohibition actually causes crime provides an enormous lever for reformers both to critique current policy and to offer an alternative," Kushlick explained.

"Crime has doubled and the government estimates crime costs at $30 billion a year," Kushlick elaborated. "The drugs discourse at the party conferences was stuck in the tough-talking rhetoric. However, there is now a groundswell of interest in looking beyond the drug war, to consider alternative policy options that will be more effective."

And that is where "After the War on Drugs" will be particularly useful. The report thinks through the possibilities in a way that has not been done before, offering up a panoply of suggestions for regulated legal access to drugs ranging from public houses to pharmacists who would specialize in recreational drugs, much like a tobacconist does with tobacco.

"This new report is the first effort to examine these options in any detail, pointing the way forward, as well as discussing the key themes in the reform debate and responding to popular concerns about legalization and government regulation of currently illegal drugs," said Kushlick. "We are approaching the end game."

And Transform is working to end the game as soon as possible. "This report will become a road map for substantive discussion about moving beyond prohibition," said Kushlick. "We are already quite blown away by the reaction, and we can't help but be pleased that tabloids like the Daily Mirror ran stories with headlines like 'Drugs to Be Legal in 20 Years.' Headlines like that suggest to people that it could actually happen and allow people to begin to think about how it might work and how they might play a part."

But even more than public opinion, the report is aimed at policymakers and opinion-shapers, Kushlick said. "We just sent out 400 copies to key government figures, academics, scientific journals, popular magazines, and other media, many of whom are focused on crime. With this report, we can show prohibition's horrendous ability to create crime."

The report is already winning kudos from prominent British reformers. "Transform's report is of enormous significance," said Labor Member of Parliament Paul Flynn at last week's introductory event. "This is the first practical road map for a benign drug policy that must follow the collapse of drug prohibition." Flynn is not just any back-bencher; he is Vice Chairman of the All Party Group on Drug Misuse and will play a key role in moving the debate forward in the months and years to come.

And, if Transform has its way, so will its report. It is designed to be a living document, said Kushlick. It is posted on the web and will be updated on a regular basis to reflect progress and changes. "This is a document that should meet the needs of a vast array of people, from politicians and policymakers to nonprofit organizations and activists," he said.

Read the report, "After the War on Drugs: Options for Control," on the Transform web site, http://www.tdpf.org.uk online.

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Issue #359, 10/22/04 Editorial: Twenty Years? | California Initiative to Rein-In Three-Strikes Law Appears Headed for Victory | English Drug Reformers Map Route to Post-Prohibition Drug Policy | In California Senate Race, Judge Jim Gray Gets No Respect from Media, Polls, or Debates, Despite Strong Showing | DRCNet Book Review: "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom," by Tony Papa with Jennifer Wynn Feral House Press, $22.95 HB) | A Message from the Executive Director on What DRCNet is Planning After Election Day and Why We Need Your Help | Newsbrief: Kerry Says Feds Should Butt Out of Oregon Laws | Newsbrief: Alaska Marijuana Initiative Backers Sue Lieutenant Governor Over Election Pamphlet | Newsbrief: Bush, Kerry, Nader Respond to HEA Query | Newsbrief: African-American Professional Groups Form Coalition to Change Drug Policies | Newsbrief: Federal Judge Rules Cops Can Lie on the Stand | Newsbrief: End of Opium Cultivation Spells Looming Disaster for Burmese Peasants | Newsbrief: Three Dead in Peru Coca Confrontation -- Cocaleros Occupy Buildings in Provincial City | Newsbrief: Dutch Medical Marijuana Program Runs Up Against Law of the Market | Newsbrief: Actress's Marijuana Bust Challenge Causing Waves in South Korea | Newsbrief: Canadian Government to Reintroduce Marijuana Reform Bill, But Adds Driver Drug Testing, Too | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | This Week in History | The DARE Generation Returns to DC: Students for Sensible Drug Policy 2004 National Conference Next Month | Apply Now to Intern at DRCNet! | Administrative Assistant: Part-Time Job Opportunity at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar
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