Drug War Chronicle:
Reclassification of cannabis was supposed to reduce the number of pot busts,
but the London Metropolitan Police Authority recently reported a 33% increase
in the number of people caught with cannabis from April to August this
year compared to the same period last year, before reclassification.
What kind of progress is this?
Member of Parliament Paul
Flynn: But the Met said the number of actual arrests fell by 53%
since downgrading. While more people were caught with cannabis, the
number of people arrested was nearly halved. The force says this
has saved almost £425,000 ($825,000 US). But that report also
adds that the reclassification had sent out a mixed message to members
of the public. Also, frontline officers found people with cannabis
on them more confrontational because they believed they would not face
arrest. The answer is that the situation is confused because of the
half retreat on reclassification. But it is still two-thirds of a
step forward and a third of a step back.
Chronicle: What are
the prospects of moving beyond reclassification or decriminalization of
cannabis toward a regulated market?
MP Flynn: None before
the election, even though the case for cannabis prohibition is in tatters.
Politicians were shaken by the tabloid hysteria on David Blunkett's courageous
move to rationalize cannabis laws. The prohibition industry exaggerated
the perils of cannabis and foretold Armageddon. All drugs are dangerous.
The debate should have been whether the risks of cannabis use are multiplied
or cut by reducing the dominance of irresponsible criminals in the cannabis
market. The Home Secretary is the first British politician to halt
and reverse slightly the repeated folly of answering prohibition's failures
with new prohibition.
Chronicle: The Independent
Drug Monitoring Unit recently reported that despite stepped-up enforcement
efforts, hard drugs are widely available and cheaper than ever. Is
there any sign that news like this will make the British political class
more receptive to moving away from prohibition and toward regulated drug
MP Flynn: Few privately
defend prohibition. At some point common sense and rationality must
Chronicle: Prime Minister
Blair recently announced a serious crackdown on drug users as part of his
"tough on crime" strategy. What will this accomplish, provided the
bills are passed?
MP Flynn: Oh, for intelligent
policies that work rather than tough policies that increase the problem!
But politicians are addicted to self-delusion; they cling to the comfort
blanket canard that tough policies work. They never have. The
lure of political gratification and tabloid approval has made cowards of
all British governments since 1971. Then, Britain embraced prohibition
in support of the naive United Nations crusade to eliminate all illegal
drug use. Perversely, prohibition is the direct cause of UK's 3,000%
increase in heroin use and our disgrace of topping the European league
tables of drug deaths and drug prisoners. The hapless Drug Czar's
[Keith Helliwell] brief reign promised drug heaven and delivered a deepening
drug hell. Now, drugs here are cheaper and more widely available
than ever before. It's the same in the USA. Aping their policies
condemn us to suffer their consequences.
Chronicle: To what
extent is Blair's promised crackdown a political ploy designed to appeal
to voters concerned about drug-related crime? And is the concern
about drug-related crime overstated?
MP Flynn: Entirely.
That is the answer to both questions. In the general election manifestos
of both main parties the word "drugs" will be closely followed by the word
"tough." None will promise intelligent policies based on outcomes.
"It's not working so we won't fix it." With luck, the new government's
vote glutton hyperbole may allow them some wriggle-room for change."
Chronicle: What is
your position on the drug question? Should illicit drugs be legalized?
If yes, what does that mean? Medicalization (heroin by prescription)?
Regulation (like alcohol and tobacco)? The free market (crack in
MP Flynn: I largely
agree with the Home Affairs Committee's splendid recommendations (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselect/cmhaff/318/31802.htm)
and the drugs charity Transform's new road map of post-prohibition practical
Both urge the provision of safe establishments for consuming heroin.
Prolonged experience in Australia, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands
prove that providing a clean supply of heroin in controlled conditions
improves the health of users, cuts crime and drains the lifeblood out of
the criminal market. Regulated, licensed decriminalization collapses
the criminal market and puts the manufacture and sale of dangerous drugs
into the hands of legitimate responsible businesses.
Drug treatment and education
are convenient alternatives to radical thinking. If anti-drug education
worked, teenage smoking would have declined. Treatment is better
than prison and an element of reform. But it's not the answer.
Internationally, the ballooning power, wealth and malign influence of drugs
cartels and the Colombianization of large tracts of the planet will convince
the world that prohibition is the problem not the solution. A realization
will dawn that it's lethal folly to try to restrict the supply from developing
countries when the problem is the demand from the streets of Chicago or
The realization of drugs
policy failure is spreading worldwide. It will lead to divisions
between reforming and prohibitionists nations. Exposure to the overwhelming
evidence of lives destroyed not by drugs but by drug laws will win the
arguments for the reformers. Britain is edging towards pragmatism.
The highest hope is that the new government will be blessed with a good
measure of courage, that rarest political commodity.
Chronicle: What about
the UN and the anti-drug conventions? Do you see any signs of progress
on that front?
MP Flynn: The UN campaigns
under the deluded battle-cry 'A drug-free world, we can do it.' They
claim to be 'on target' to eliminate all coca, cannabis and opium cultivation
by 2008 -- a delusion of Olympic proportions. Happily other international
bodies, in touch with sanity, have swapped prohibition for the realism
of harm reduction. The World Health Organization and UNAIDS now routinely
place achievable remedies at the heart of their programs and show increasing
resistance to the prohibition industry.