Submitted by David Raynes
David Raynes is a self employed Management &
Security Consultant working in the Public & Private sectors.
He retired from full time public service in June 2000 after 37
years in law enforcement with HM Customs & Excise, a total
of 25 of those years was spent in the Investigation Service of
Customs. He retired as an Assistant Chief Investigation Officer.
He also served during the 1990s as an internal public sector management
consultant working, within Customs, in the Cabinet Office Efficiency
Unit and in the Northern Ireland Office where he carried out two
consultancy projects concerned with the management of the RUC
and the expected "peace dividend". He has had a long-standing
professional interest in substance abuse through his work dealing
with drug and particularly heroin & cocaine trafficking from
the late 1960s. In the 1970s he was a visiting speaker to the
"American University in London" where he was introduced
to the concept of full legalisation of all drugs through his cooperation,
at the University, with the US based arch-legaliser and founding
father of that movement, Professor Arnold Trebach with whom he
debated frequently but rarely agreed! He has made a particular
study of the old "British System" for prescription of
maintenance heroin. He has travelled widely, including, while
on heroin smuggling enquiries, Thailand and most recently (1998)
the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, so in the news now for other reasons.
In Autumn 2000 he had a lead letter published in the Times on
legalisation of cannabis and on drug trafficking and drugs criminality
generally. Through that letter he gained introduction to The National
Drug Prevention Alliance (NDPA) and later agreed to become an
Executive Councillor to that body. Like the NDPA he supports primary
prevention as a part of substance abuse control policy. In the
last twelve months he has met Keith Helliwell, and attended the
Cleveland Police Authority and the Association of Chief Police
Officers Drugs Conferences. He has debated on radio, television
and at Westminster Central Hall with such personalities as Peter
Lilley MP, Brian Idden MP, Keith Wilkinson (ex-Chief Constable
of Gwent) and others, on the merits of drug decriminalisation/legalisation.
He has a wide range of international contacts within this field
of drug policy. He is prepared to give oral evidence to the Committee
or be questioned by them on this paper or any other associated
2. For reasons of the required brevity this
paper focuses on four issues:
of Drugs particularly Cannabis. The Dealing Recommendation (20)
of the Police Foundation report.
2. Adverse effects on the 10-year
strategy of the decision that Customs should not target Cannabis
trafficking and the "Lambeth Experiment".
3. Maintenance Heroin and Methadone-Links
to crime reduction.
4. "Harm reduction",
the Trojan horse of drugs policy?
(20), OF THE
The writer identifies the pressure for change
here as coming from a small but articulate minority. The most
articulate have a metropolitan base and are often connected with
the media. They are highly manipulative and in the opinion of
the writer are in many cases involved in "media advocacy".
They are unrepresentative of society as a whole. In almost all
cases they fail to view substance abuse as a damaging influence
on society, and, as a continuum, which starts with tobacco &
alcohol and proceeds through cannabis and ecstasy to other substances
of abuse. The writer does not believe and there is no evidence,
that this continuum is casual but he does believe, and this is
borne out by the research, that abuse of any substance is more
likely to lead to abuse of others. In that context then the writer
does not accept that there is any case at all for decriminalisation
of cannabis, or for downgrading cannabis to Class C. That is not
to say that first (possession) offences of cannabis or any other
drug should not be treated other than by criminal proceedings.
(Of which more later). In the writer's opinion after analysing
the scientific evidence, there is a good argument that lifetime
regular use of cannabis is more damaging to physical and mental
health than heroin use with clean supply and clean needles. This
writer takes as his core texts on Cannabis:
3.1 Cannabis: a health perspective and research
agenda. World Health Organisation 1997. This document was over
two years in preparation, has extensive scientific references
and had over 100 external reviewers.
3.2 Adverse Health Consequences of Cannabis
Use. By Jan Ramstrom National Institute of Public Health Sweden.
Again, another well referenced bringing together of sources and
3.3 CANNABIS. Evidence submitted to the
House of Lords Select Committee on Science & Technology, Sub-Committee
1. By Mary D Brett BSc. 1998. (An educationalist and high school
3.4 There is no point in this writer reiterating
all or any of the physical and particularly mental, harm that
cannabis can cause, which is manifested in these three documents.
In the writers view, if the Committee is inclined to say anything
at all about Cannabis all Members should have read all three of
these documents in their entirety-not just in extract. Your secretariat
should be able to obtain them.
3.5 The Committee will no doubt be overwhelmed
by evidence proposing (a) the relative innocence of cannabis or
suggesting that (b) the illegality causes more harm than the substance.
It will also be proposed (c) that decriminalising or legalising
Cannabis will take users out of the reach of dealers who will
try to sell users other substances. This last is sadly nonsense,
some of it proposed by people in, or recently from, law enforcement,
who ought to know better.
3.6 As far as point (a) is concerned. As
a deterrent to using cannabis or cutting existing use, concerns
about physical or mental health damage always rank (rightly) at
the top of any survey, but parental and societal disapproval follows
very closely as an influencing factor on behaviour. Indeed since
cannabis after tobacco is the main gateway to wider substance
abuse, detection and early intervention into what may become a
lifetime of such abuse, can only effectively be carried out if
the criminality of cannabis possession, use and dealing is maintained
at current levels.
3.7 As for suggestion (c) above. The proponents
of this theory usually suggest that users get their supply from
dealers who typically supply other, so called, harder drugs. Nothing
could be further from the truth. At Cannabis user-level, supply
is typically by friends, largely or often, not for profit, an
increasing quantity being home grown. Most low-level users never
come into contact with the wholesale dealers or importers who
traffic in other substances. This argument is specious and the
writer having been involved in this subject for most of his working
life, is in a position to know. Retired Chief Constables who have
had little to do with the drugs market, MPs or others members
of the great and good, are emphatically not.
3.8 What action can be taken falling short of
The writer will be the first to agree that to
give a young or first time user a criminal record for possession
lacks proportionality. Although primary prevention does work for
many young people, some youngsters will always experiment with
tobacco, cannabis and other drugs and will abuse alcohol. The
writer suggests a new scheme. New or first time drugs offenders
(users only) under a certain age (perhaps 24) should receive a
caution and "points allocation", of resources permit,
compulsory attendance at an educational drugs class on a Friday
and Saturday evening would be indicated, after a second offence
such attendance would be compulsory. After a third offence criminal
proceedings would be an option. Ideally, any such scheme would
have links with other substances and offences such as drunkenness
in a public place.
3.9 The writer strongly opposes Recommendation
20 in the Police Foundation Report (about a defence of dealing
to small social groups), as not being in the public interest.
The law is complicated enough; this muddying of the waters would
encourage this method of dealing and supply (which is anyway substantial
in effect particularly for cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine). The
proposed change would prolong legal argument to the benefit only
of the legal profession. Dealing in or for a small group is dealing.
After criminal charge this type of dealing can be dealt with by
way of mitigation, the courts have sufficient powers to assess
it and to make judgements. The suggestion that the proposal should
apply to drugs of Class B and below and not Class A, exemplifies
the intellectual barrenness of much of the Foundation thinking.
4. ADVERSE EFFECTS
In the autumn of 1999 HM Customs promulgated
to the service the monumental decision that henceforward Customs
would not "Target" major Cannabis trafficking. It was
alleged to staff (the matter was concealed from the public) that
this was part of the government drug strategy and was a decision
taken in order to attack the supply targets for Class A drugs
more effectively. It was not suggested that cannabis traffickers
would not be dealt with if found accidentally but that no offensive
or disruption action before the event would normally be contemplated.
The writer fundamentally disagreed with this policy (as did most
knowledgeable practitioners within the service) and it led to
his asking to leave the service slightly early. It has transpired
since then that Customs is defending the decision by saying it
was taken by the Cabinet Office Committee "CIDA", (Concerted
Inter-Agency Drugs Action), which contains representatives or
the heads of MI6, MI5, Customs Investigation Service, the National
Criminal Intelligence Service, the National Crime Squad and the
Association of Chief Police Officers plus, the Permanent Under-Secretaries
of the Home Office, Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence.
4.1 The practical effect of this decision
is that the UK has been flooded with cannabis in a way that had
hitherto been impossible, the price has dropped to its lowest
level ever and the law (which arguably should be changed by Parliament
not administrative action) has been made to look an ass. The flood
of cannabis has also in the opinion of the writer increased the
pressure for decriminalisation or legalisation. This action, effectively
promoting cannabis consumption, was not publicly acknowledged
by government, more worryingly it may not have been fully understood.
4.2 The writer believes that this Committee
(CIDA) failed most lamentably to take a holistic view of the drugs
market in the UK and particularly the linkage between abuse of
one substance and another. By undermining the will of Parliament
this action has fed substance abuse in an extraordinary way. It
is worth noting that not even in Holland has such extraordinary
action been taken and that the Dutch have long since recognised
the folly of doing nothing about cannabis. Indeed their education
programme is now primarily directed against it.
4.3 The writer has had the opportunity to
discuss the Customs decision with Keith Helliwell. Mr Helliwell
denied to the writer that he had understood exactly how far Customs
had gone with this policy and insisted that it is not what he
had intended! He had wanted increased concentration on Class A
drugs, (but of course, that was always Customs policy well before
the role of "Czar" was invented).
4.4 Customs action and the flood of cannabis
UK wide, indirectly fed through to the "Lambeth Experiment".
While Police use of discretion is lawful and has gone on for years,
across a wide range of offences. Importantly, there was no need
at all to announce the use of it so publicly. The writer is very
suspicious of the motives of those behind the announcement, coming
as it did the day before a "cannabis march". The advertising
of this policy has added to mixed messages for the young and was
very unwise. The Committee should say that, and should I criticise
the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. It is no task of the Police
to make law or DELIBERATELY to undermine existing law in public.
If they wish they should advise on it in private.
4.5 The writer believes that the easy availability
of cannabis thus promoted and advertised by administrative action,
has seriously undermined the demand reduction targets of the strategy
and will subliminally have the effect of promoting wider substance
Others will tell the Committee that the maintenance
of addicts on heroin or methadone at public expense will reduce
crime. You will also be told that it is perfectly possible for
some individuals to stay on heroin for a lifetime without obvious
effect. There is no doubt both statements are true to some extent.
The writer has studied the UK wide heroin market and was watching
the scene in the 1960s when the UK had the "British System"
of maintenance heroin; he also debated this with Professor Trebach.
There is no doubt that through lack of tight supervision heroin
leaked from official prescription into the illegal market and
that led to the system coming into disrepute and being largely
abandoned. Importantly, although it often goes unrecognised now,
there was an illegal and parallel market supplied from diverted
NHS supplies and at that time from smuggled Chinese heroin. Nevertheless
the UK currently has a substantial number of doctors (around 100)
with licences to prescribe heroin under closely monitored conditions.
Only around a dozen doctors regularly so prescribe. There is no
apparent appetite within the medical profession for further substantial
provision. Any large-scale provision at public expense would,
because of the now recognised need for supervision during administration,
(to prevent leakage to the illegal market), entail a massive move
of resources from the NHS. It would also require a change in public
opinion. In the writer's observation there is support for heroin
or methadone maintenance during a programme designed to get users
free of addiction. There is no general support for open-ended
maintenance at public expense forever. And it that is done for
heroin why not for alcohol?
5.1 The writer points out that in Holland
a country generally regarded as more liberal than the UK in these
matters, the provision of maintenance heroin is done under very
strictly controlled conditions indeed, with a minimum age limit,
and two recognised previous efforts to become free of addiction.
The provision is time-limited and supply is gradually reduced.
In the writer's opinion the UK should go no further. John Strang
and others argue for more money to allow more intravenous methadone
treatment, that being three to four times as expensive as oral
treatment. The argument he uses that addicts get more of a kick
from that and will engage more readily with treatment are not
in the writers opinion convincing, and should be resisted. Better
that there are more oral treatments than less intravenous treatments
feeding addictive behaviour through Official supply.
The Committee will come under a great deal of
pressure to recommend for further consideration "harm reduction"
as a method of dealing with substance abuse. A key proponent of
this strategy particularly among the young, employed, night-clubbing
set, is Professor Howard Parker of Manchester University, who
the writer heard speak at this year's ACPO drugs conference.
6.1 There are two kinds of "harm reduction"
that which concerns addicts and users and deals with other health
issues, eg. clean needles (needle exchange), hepatitis injections
etc (to which there is no logical objection) and the kind which
promotes substance abuse as a "choice" and "lifestyle
option" of equal validity and without giving or making moral
judgements. The most damaging material seen by the writer is some
of that produced by "Lifeline", the Manchester-based
charity which often fails wholeheartedly to discourage use, and,
through cartoons and comic interpretations of the issues, promotes
the general idea that the worst thing about drugs is "getting
caught". The Committee should beware of the people who have
infiltrated the drugs charity industry who have a barely concealed
agenda. They are at all levels in many of the drug charities.
6.2 In respect of Professor Parker's suggestion,
the extreme example of that is drug-testing stations outside nightclubs
as is said to happen in Holland. (Although in fairness, the writer
did not hear the Professor suggest exactly that). A moments thought
will tell the Committee that if those sort of resources are to
be spent supporting drug taking, the same resources applied to
prevention and disruption of such drug taking inside and outside
the clubs will have greater impact. The best form of "harm-reduction
is prevention. The Committee will be told this does not work.
There is an industry of people out there that has no interest
in it working; they make their living from it not working. The
Committee should beware.
Winning totally the so called "war on drugs"
is not possible, not least because there are powerful advocates
of substance abuse who proselytise about it, presenting it as
an alternative lifestyle with little danger. There are always
new generations coming along ready to be influenced and ready
to experiment, some will always do so. If however the real objective
of drugs policy is to reduce lifetime substance abuse and the
damage of illegal drugs, it succeeds massively, less than 5 per
cent of people abuse illegal drugs for a lifetime.
7.1 A recent study (British Crime Survey),
suggests that the total UK illegal drug market is worth only £6.5
Billion. This is a surprisingly small amount compared to the UK
markets in tobacco and alcohol. Although things are worse than
they were in the 60s and 70s, the policy is working and is containing
matters. But the rather silly decisions on cannabis will take
their toll and ground will need to be recovered. Changes in lifestyle
values can only be made over a long period and after attacking
the issue on many fronts. The minimum we should hope for is containment.
Use of currently illegal drugs (and use/abuse of some legal ones)
is not necessary to a happy, healthy and contented lifestyle.
Any message from the Committee, which adds to the confusion and
to the mixed messages described earlier, should be very carefully
thought through indeed, lest the Committee aggravate the problem.