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Europe: Former British Anti-Drug Official Now Calls For Legalization

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #547)
Politics & Advocacy

The man who was once responsible for coordinating the British government's drug policy now says drug legalization would be preferable to the current prohibitionist-style approach embraced by successive British governments. Julian Critchley, former director of the UK Anti-Drugs Coordination Unit in the Cabinet Office, said that his views were shared by "the overwhelming majority" of professionals in the field, but that the New Labor government played to a tabloid audience in setting drug policy, instead looking at the evidence for what worked and what didn't.

As director of the coordination unit, Critchley reported to then drug czar Keith Hellawell. The defection of such a high level player is yet another blow to Britain's prohibitionist drug policies, most recently scored as failing in a report from the UK Drug Policy Commission. It was in response to an online discussion of that report that Critchley took his stand.

Critchley first announced his change of heart during a BBC web site discussion on drug policy (see comment #73), then, after the Transform Drug Policy Foundation's Steve Rolles dug up and blogged about Critchley's comments Wednesday, exciting a British media frenzy, Critchley elaborated on them in The Independent on Thursday.

During his time with the anti-drug unit, "it became apparent to me that the available evidence pointed very clearly to the fact that enforcement and supply-side interventions were largely pointless. They have no significant, lasting impact on the availability, affordability or use of drugs," Critchley wrote on the BBC blog on July 30.

"It seems apparent to me that wishing drug use away is folly," he continued. "The only sensible cause of action is to minimize the damage caused to society by individuals' drugs choices. What harms society is the illegality of drugs and all the costs associated with that. There is no doubt at all that the benefits to society of the fall in crime as a result of legalization would be dramatic," he argued. "The argument always put forward against this is that there would be a commensurate increase in drug use as a result of legalization. This, it seems to me, is a bogus point : tobacco is a legal drug, whose use is declining, and precisely because it is legal, its users are far more amenable to Government control, education programs and taxation than they would be, were it illegal. Studies suggest that the market is already almost saturated, and anyone who wishes to purchase the drug of their choice, anywhere in the UK, can already do so. The idea that many people are holding back solely because of a law which they know is already unenforceable is simply ridiculous."

Hear, hear! But is anyone in the Gordon Brown government listening? Or are they busy trying to figure out what will sell with Daily Mail readers?

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

Mass Mental Masturbation that is!

Never forget what is at the core, in fact the catalyst, of the current and our nations second drug war... which followed the 1st drug war upon the repeal of the drug alcohol in 1933... religious fundamentalism gone extreme... again... thanks in large part to our complacently complicit and whorish congress!

The modern temperance movement is alive and well... not to mention funded by billions in tax dollars. God, how this freethinker hates aiding and abetting my enemies with my extorted tax dollars! You know there used to be a law against this shit called the constitution & bill of rights?

Seriously, good news indeed! The guys at LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) should look into recruiting Critchley.... maybe start a chapter in GB?

Dare to Disagree!

Billy B. Blunt
Tacoma, WA

Fri, 08/15/2008 - 4:40pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I read the article in The Independent, and Mr. Critchley's post on the BBC blog site. True to form, the comments are running 95+% in favor of legalization. What will it take to get through to our elected officials? I am new to activism on this issue, and I am looking any way I can to make a difference.

Fri, 08/15/2008 - 6:55pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

"95+% in favor of legalization"

I suspect that few beyond marijuana users care about marijuana prohibition enough to take the time to comment about legalization issues. Similar "polls" in blogs about concealed carry would make you think that everyone was packing heat.

Fri, 08/15/2008 - 7:18pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Then again, maybe I'm just way too into the legalization "world" to realize that everything is pretty much the same as always.
It's true that unless someone is interested in drugs, they won't even realize the legalization movement exists, much less spend enough time reading about it to become advocates. Thing is, though, anybody who does becomes interested in the topic of drugs nowadays will run into the legalization movement on the internet. To know that there is a movement gives people the confidence to believe legalization can be a good idea. Just a few years ago, there was no way you'd even know that other people (serious people) actually believe in legalization. Plus, we are not silent little hubbies; we're the type of people who try to convince others. Before, without the presence of the movement on the internet, nobody would take us seriously. Now, if you can convince a friend of yours to watch a few videos or read a few articles, he will quickly learn that the legalization movement is a serious, legitimate thing. Plus, the more people who talk about it the more people who realize the beauty of legalization, the more people who talk about it, and on and on. The more the movement grows the faster it grows.

Then again, this could all be in my head.

You know when we'll know for sure? In 2010. People in Nevada and Oregon will vote to legalize marijuana. If it's true we're making so much progress (and two years is a long time to keep making progress), we'll see the results in 2010. In Nevada in 2006 we lost by about 47% to 53%. If we're really making progress, we'll win in Nevada in 2010 for sure.

And then, just think about how much more seriously everyone (in the world, not just the US), will take the legalization debate. Then the movement would REALLY start to grow.

Sun, 08/17/2008 - 10:48pm Permalink

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