Submitted by Jasper Woodcock
1. ILLICIT DRUG
1.1 Despite international action since 1909,
and increasing UK domestic initiatives since 1960s, the level
of usage of illegal drugs has risen inexorably everywhere. (In
1968, there were about 3,000 heroin users in Britain: now there
1.2 Attempts to eradicate the supply of
drugs (crop substitution, crop destruction) have failed. Even
if they became successful, the outcome would be the replacement
of drugs of plant origin (cocaine, heroin and cannabis) by synthetically
produced alternatives, of which there are many available in the
pharmacopoeia. These would be manufactured illicitly in the consuming
countries, as are currently amphetamines and ecstasy.
2.1 Decriminalisation, by which the possession
of illegal drugs ceases to be a criminal offence while their supply
and production remain illegal, is likely to make the situation
worse. For it will increase numbers of users and thus the customer
base of the illicit drug suppliers and producers. This will strengthen
their already massive economic power. (International trade in
drugs has been valued at £250 billion a yearmore than
iron and steel or automobiles. British drug users spend £6.6
billion a year).
3. LEGAL PRODUCTION
3.1 There has been one successful international
response to the problem. That is the system of regulation of the
international trade in legitimately produced narcotics, which
is overseen by the International Narcotics Control Board. This
involves auditing of product, manufacture, imports, exports, stocks
and legal consumption of controlled drugs in all countries. For
the past 70 years this has effectively excluded the legitimate
pharmaceutical industry from supplying the illicit market. (In
the 1920s, before this system was introduced, European pharmaceutical
manufacturers were shipping large amounts of heroin to drug dealers
4. NEW STRATEGY
4.1 What is needed is a radical change in
drug policy that will make it possible to target effective controls,
so as for example to make it very difficult for young people to
gain access to drugs, and to obtain constant feedback. This means
there must be complete control of supply and constant monitoring
of drug users.
4.2 Complete control over the supply of
drugs to users can be achieved by:
firstly making the supply legal and
so open to inspection at every point; and
secondly by making it a government
monopoly and so uninfluenced by commercial motivations of the
(A strategy of government monopoly has been
adopted by some Scandinavian countries to control the supply of
4.3 The exercise of detailed control over
the recipients of drugs can be achieved by making mail order the
only channel of distribution.
This would mean that restrictions on who might
buy what drugs in what quantities would be enforceable. Proof
of age for example would be a routine requirement for registration
as a purchaser of drugs. (Diversion of supplies in transit would
be unlikely if the price is low enough to make them an unattractive
5. RESEARCH AND
5.1 This system would produce a database
containing details of practically every drug user in the country
with good information about their consumption. This would provide
a foundation for robust epidemiological research into the effects
of drugs on their users, including that overwhelming majority
about whom little is known because they do not come to the attention
of either law enforcement or health and social work agencies.
5.2 This scheme also provides machinery
for targeting flexible responses to whatever fresh problems the
improved information that will become available may reveal.
6.1 Public Opinion. A difficulty will be
to overcome the consequences of the demonisation of drugs over
many years. Drugs will seem to many to be unsuitable to a government
monopoly. However, the policy is essentially a measure to reduce
crime and promote public health, and an uncommercial venture (declining
sales signal success so long as the illicit trade remains suppressed).
There is widespread public support for government monopoly in
areas that involve safety and health.
6.2 The International Conventions. Prima
facie, the new strategy appears to breach the 1961 and 1972 Conventions
on drugs. However, there were exceptions to the prohibition on
making controlled drugs available without medical justification.
For example, cannabis continued to be legally available in some
provinces of India for 25 years after the ratification of the
1961 Convention. There is a proviso that in these circumstances,
the production and supply must be a government monopoly.
6.3 Vested Interests. There are numbers
of people with a vested interest in maintaining the illegality
of recreational drugs. First are the organised criminal syndicates
which currently serve the market.
Second are the politicians, policemen, and government
officials who benefit from bribes and other corrupt inducements
offered by the illicit trade.
Third many legitimate careers, in the police,
the customs and the law, have been built on the control of drug
trafficking and would be threatened by its replacement by a legitimate
supply system. A government drug supply agency would absorb very
few of the consequent redundancies.
Acknowledgement. Mail order as the ideal channel
of supply by a government monopoly was originally proposed by
the late Professor J D P Graham in 1976.