Submitted by Positive Prevention Plus
As Senior Consultant with the above Drug Prevention
consultancy I have nearly twenty years experience working both
with drug users and their families and in the field of drug prevention.
It is my belief that many submissions to the Committee will cover
health and safety issues and whilst I would be happy to provide
scientific evidence of the harms from cannabis in particular (as
a much misunderstood substance) I would like to draw attention
to the drug culture. This paper is a much abbreviated version
to comply with the 1,000-word stipulationthe full paper
with references to substantiate every assertion can be supplied
1. Does existing drugs policy work?
1.1 Indeed it does. All surveys in recent
years, large scale and small, in UK and in Europe show that whilst
approximately 30 per cent of youth try illegal drugs once or twice,
only 17 per cent go on to use more oftenand of these only
about 10 per cent use regularly. Though this is too many it does
mean that 80 per cent of our young people do not use drugsdespite
media hype. Surveys also show that amongst the reasons given by
young people who do not use, "illegality" and "risks
to health" are prominent. It is therefore totally unnecessary
to dismantle current drug laws for such a small proportion of
the populationdespite vocal demands from that minority
and their apologists.
2. Effect of decriminalisation on (a) availability
of and demand for drugs?
2.1 Both availability and use would certainly
increase as experience showed in Sweden in the 1970s and Alaska
in the 1990s; both countries rescinded their experiment and law
relaxation because of the resulting problems. Australia is currently
experiencing severe problems because of law relaxationaccording
to figures from the Federal Government every second person arrested
in Australia is under the influence of marijuana. Between 1973
and 1978 marijuana was decriminalised by 12 states in the USAall
regression specifications confirm that the decriminalised cities
experienced a statistically significant increase in marijuana
mentions in hospital emergency room drug episodes.
2.2 The best example is of course the Netherlands.
As the "coffee shops" boomed between 1984 and 1996 use
by Dutch youth between 18-25 increased by over 200 per cent and
there was a concurrent 25 per cent increase in registered cannabis
addicts registering for treatment. A recent study by Pieter Cohen
of the University of Amsterdam claimed use throughout Holland
had decreasedunfortunately the survey also discovered increased
use amongst the young in densely populated areas such as Amsterdam
and Rotterdam. In the last few years in these same areas there
has been a huge growth in juvenile crime and acts of violence.
Amsterdam Police Commissioner Jelle Kuiper declared "As long
as our political class tries to pretend that soft drugs do not
create dependence, we are going to go on being confronted daily
with problems that officially do not exist". His counterpart
in The Hague said, "65 per cent of the persistent rise we
are seeing in criminality is due to juvenile drug users".
The Dutch Minister of Justice was quoted in the Wall Street Journal
in 1990 describing Holland as "the most crime prone nation
2.3 In 1995 Erasmus University in Rotterdam
conducted a poll and found that 82 per cent thought the use of
drugs was wrong, 61 per cent said all drugs should be prohibited.
Another survey by the University of Amsterdam found 75 per cent
wanted tougher penalties for users and dealers and 73 per cent
thought the Netherlands was too tolerant towards drug abusers.
3. Effect on (b) drug-related deaths?
3.1 Increased use will inevitably lead to
more deaths. Some will be related to drivingand will involve
pedestrians and passengers as well as stoned drivers. There is
already much evidence of the increasing number of fatalities which
feature cannabis with and without alcoholin the UK and
the rest of the world. Since cannabis is fat soluble and remains
in the body with a half-life of seven days, it would be impossible
to prevent the use of this psychoactive drug by train drivers,
pilots, surgeons etc.and if use was legal random drug tests
would not be carried out. Long-term use of cannabis is implicated
in more cancer deathsparticularly head and neck cancers
and a large scale Swedish study did a follow-up with conscripts
with a history of cannabis use. The excess mortality from suicides
was particularly high and increased in proportion to the magnitude
of cannabis use. Heavy users of Ecstasy are already experiencing
severe depressive illness and scientists believe this may be long-term
4. Effect on (c) crime?
4.1 Dealers, from disaffected youth selling
to friends to narco-terrorists, are not going to give up their
lucrative businesses because drug laws are relaxed. They will
undercut legal supplies, sell stronger substances or supply to
minors. Burglary rates in Holland are three times higher than
in Switzerland or the USA, four times than France and 50 per cent
higher than in Germany. In Moscow drug-related crime increased
6.7 times between 1995-2000. In the USA 65 per cent of those charged
with a drug offence during 1999 had been arrested previously28
per cent had five or more prior arrests. An Italian study by Confcommercio
claimed that one in three coffee bars in Northern Italy is under
the control of organised crime. "Coffee shops"in
Holland are supplied by the Mafia.
5. Is decriminalisation desirable and, if
not, what are the practical alternatives?
5.1 The first question to ask is "Why
does there appear to be pressure to relax drug laws, and from
whom?" The legalisation movement is a sophisticated, well-financed
and orchestrated campaign which began in the USA in the early
1970s and was quickly taken up by groups in the UK, Europe and
Australia followed by Canada. These groups network and the same
few names will be seen at all the Harm Reduction Conferences,
writing editorials in the press and conducting so called "public
debates". A recent survey in the Independent had headlines
that proclaimed "Cannabis: poll reveals demand for legalisation"yet
in the information further down the page it showed that just three
per cent of those polled used cannabis frequently and 81 per cent
had never used at all. Another article in the Mail asked 19 people"from
all walks of life""should not be legalised?"
All 10 who voted yes were writers, broadcasters or filmmakersand
five of these were admitted users. Over 80 per cent of British
youth do not use drugs and the majority of the public do not want
drugs decriminalised. Whenever a pseudo debate is broadcast the
pro-drug speakers outnumber the othersand if the results
of any polls, any government enquiry or scientific study decides
legalisation is not a sensible idea there is silence for a few
weeks before the demands start again. Quite often those members
of the public who do agree that drugs should be decriminalised
have been misled by surveys which suggest that, for example, terminally
ill cancer patients need to smoke cannabis without getting a criminal
record. Dick Cowan of NORML is on record as saying:
"...the key to it is medical access ..once
you have hundreds of thousands of people using marijuana medically
the whole scam is going to be bought.. we'll get medical use then
we'll get full legalisation. Medical marijuana is our strongest
suit. It is our point of leverage which will move us towards full
legalisation of marijuana for personal use."
There is no need for "a practical alternative"the
drugs laws should not be relaxed for a small vocal minoritymany
of whom are users.
6. Effectiveness of ten-year strategy?
6.1 On paper the strategy is excellent.
In practice it will never succeed whilst it is being undermined
on all fronts. The organisation Drugscope is handsomely funded
by government and has an Education and Prevention departmentyet
its Chief Executive Roger Howard wants drug laws "changed"and
I challenge anyone to find even the word "prevention"
in any of the member's briefings that come out from this organisation.
Harm Reduction has become the dominant strategy throughout schools,
colleges and youth clubsDrug Prevention is simply dismissed.
Yet in the USA between 1979 and 1992 drug use was reduced by 60
per cent. Since then the billionaire George Soros has put many
millions of dollars into weakening the drugs lawsnot only
in the USA since his Lindesmith Institute has funded, amongst
others, Release, The Police Foundation report and The United Kingdom
Harm Reduction Alliance. His CD promoting cannabis was sent to
all schools in Hungary. In the UK we have drug education packs
that suggest that children should be allowed to make their own
(informed?) choices about whether or not to use drugsdespite
this being an illegal act. We have DATs that no longer have education
against drugs but promote "Substance Education about Drugs".