The leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Chris Davies, has called for the legalization and regulation of all currently illicit drugs. Davies' public airing of his views in the Brussel-based magazine The Sprout, a European Union-watching publication, puts Davies ahead of the official platform of the British Liberal Democratic Party, which calls for the regulated supply of marijuana "in the longer term" and for not arresting drug users, but not for legalizing any other drugs.
Davies is not new to British drug reform. He took part in the 1995 Liberal Democratic Party debates where delegates revolted against party leader Paddy Ashdown by calling for a national commission to study cannabis legalization. And readers of the Chronicle will recall that, along with Italian Radical Party MEP Marco Cappato, Davies had himself arrested for possession of symbolic amounts of pot in protest of the arrest of suburban Manchester cannabis cafe owner Colin Davies (no relation). But as leader of his party's delegation to the EP this may be Davies' boldest attack on prohibition yet.
Davies' comments come little more than a month after the long-suppressed "Birt report" on British drug policy was made public. Commissioned for Prime Minister Tony Blair, that report bluntly called British drug prohibition a failure. But despite its incendiary findings, the report was blown off the British front pages by the July 7 London suicide bombings.
The Birt report's findings back Davies' policy prescription. It found that the supply of drug dealers in Britain was "inexhaustible," and despite decades of drug law enforcement consumption had grown and prices had dropped, thanks to a "large, highly flexible, and very adaptable" drug business created by black market profits. Authorities only managed to seize at most 25% of illegal drug imports, with negligible impact on use or price, the report found.
Davies took that theme and ran with it. "Taking a small percentage of the drugs off the market simply forces up the price, adding to the already vast profits made by the traffickers and providing a stronger financial incentive for others to get involved. It's a vicious circle," he wrote. "Far from preventing the use of illegal drugs the policy of prohibition creates the profits which drive the growth of the trade. It leads to the corruption of our institutions and provides funds for terrorism. These views used to be controversial but now that the prime minister's personal adviser says that existing policies are doomed to failure it is surely time for all responsible politicians to consider whether alternative strategies could do more to curb crime, reduce harm and save lives."
Click here to watch Chris Davies' speech at an October 2002 drug legalization conference in Brussels, organized by Members of the European Parliament with the Italian Radical "Bonino's List" as part of the DRCNet-initiated "Out from the Shadows" international conference series.