THE ISSUE: Should the Government bring about the legalisation of drugs?

THE ISSUE: Should the Government bring about the legalisation of drugs?

THE ISSUE: Should the Government bring about the legalisation of drugs?

First published in News

YES says Anne-Marie Cockburn, whose daughter Martha Fernback, of Summertown, died after taking Ecstasy in July last year

Oxford Mail:

I AM not a drug policy expert, I am an expert on being a bereaved single mother of 11 months whose only child died from a mistaken ecstasy overdose at Hinksey Lakes in Oxford.

Martha was an ordinary teenager of 15 years and nine months. I have sought the advice of Transform, a Bristol-based charity, established 20 years ago. They advocate for strict regulation of all aspects of the drug trade and it is their research material that I’m using as the basis for my vote to regulate drugs.

By legalising drugs you take them out of the hands of criminals and enable strict and responsible regulation of drugs to be under the jurisdiction of medical professionals, such as pharmacists and doctors.

More than 50 years of prohibition have failed to prevent a dramatic rise in the use of drugs, despite vast resources spent on enforcement.

Today, 240 million people use illicit drugs worldwide. All drug use carries risk, but even if levels of use continue to rise under legal regulation, levels of harm would be significantly reduced. Ultimately, we all want to get drugs under control, but that is only possible under a regulatory model.

Many may worry that legal regulation will increase the availability of drugs – but legal regulation means controlled, not increased, availability, with tight controls on what can be sold, where it can be sold, and to whom. Under prohibition, there are no such controls. Regulation is not the soft option – it is taking responsible action based on the reality that many people are choosing to take drugs.

If any of these happen to get into the hands of young people, they are at least better protected because the drugs are quality controlled and carry dosage advice. Under a system of legal regulation, sales to minors would remain illegal and subject to sanctions.

To meaningfully address the wider challenges posed by drugs, legal regulation must be complemented by improvements in public health, education, prevention, treatment and recovery.

Savings from enforcement budgets and tax revenue from legal drug sales could also be used to fund drug education programmes.

I would urge all concerned parents to email or write to their MPs, asking them to take control of the drug trade in order to protect our children.

NO says Wendy Dawson, chief executive, drugs and alcohol theraputic charity Ley Community, Yarnton

Oxford Mail:

THERE has been much debate over the years for legalisation of drugs but the point is often missed or not fully understood.

Taking drugs has and always will be part of human nature. Legalisation is not the answer.

We need more robust education for children, young people and adults.

For example, let’s take legal highs. Many people, young and older, believe these drugs are safe because they are ‘legal’, however in many cases they are far more dangerous and life-threatening than heroin.

It is generally known there are four stages to addiction: experimentation, recreation, habitual and chronic.

Most intervention begins at habitual and chronic stage, which is why we need to improve education and ensure it is correct, credible and factual and reaches as many people as possible.

Part of the transition from childhood to adulthood historically involves some sort of ritualistic passage – in the 70s it was drinking cider, smoking weed and taking LSD or maybe speed.

Today, the vast amount of information and ‘goods’ one can get over the internet that is not ‘policed’ is causing a huge problem but legalisation will not stop people experimenting because individuals need and want excitement, to be different, to engage in risky behaviour.

Addiction is not about the substance it is about behaviour.

People who tend to become addicts are people who have a behaviour trait that drives them to try something until it becomes part of their life and that is where dependency begins and ultimately addiction.

Some people experience huge trauma in their lives, for example rape, domestic violence, emotional and physical torture or sexual abuse, so they take drugs to self medicate and make the pain go away. If we legalised drugs, then these people would never be offered appropriate counselling or access to rehab.

Legalisation would condone violence and oppression and place even more burden on the taxpayer who would have to foot the bill.

There would be more drain on the NHS because people’s tolerance levels of their drug of choice would increase and this would cause ill health – Hepatitis C, HIV, liver disease, tooth decay, mental health problems etc and death would increase.

Babies born with addiction are subject to a horrendous detox.

I have both personal and professional experience of substance misuse and I say no to legalisation of drugs.

Comments (6)

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6:02pm Wed 18 Jun 14

FreddyF says...

"There would be more drain on the NHS..." No there wouldn't since most currently legal drugs are less harmful than alcohol. If a new medicine is found that has fewer side effects than the older medicine then the old medicine is phased out. Giving people the choice to take a safe drug on a night out rather than a dangerous drug like alcohol can only be a good thing.

One in a thousand alcohol users die from their alcohol use. For MDMA the figure is one between 20,000 and 100,000. Only the disproportionate news coverage creates the opposite impression.
"There would be more drain on the NHS..." No there wouldn't since most currently legal drugs are less harmful than alcohol. If a new medicine is found that has fewer side effects than the older medicine then the old medicine is phased out. Giving people the choice to take a safe drug on a night out rather than a dangerous drug like alcohol can only be a good thing. One in a thousand alcohol users die from their alcohol use. For MDMA the figure is one between 20,000 and 100,000. Only the disproportionate news coverage creates the opposite impression. FreddyF
  • Score: 28

8:31am Thu 19 Jun 14

PJ Reynolds says...

Banning substances does not reduce use, all it does is increase harm. People are going to take drugs whatever moral or medical advice they are given. Therefore, society should do all it can to minimise harm, not maximise it as present policy does.

The legal alternative alcohol, is the most dangerous, harmful and addictive drug of all so why would anyone take any notice of what the law says? It is clearly misleading and designed to protect vested interests rather than people.

Similarly, I'm afraid that Ms Dawson and all those engaged in the self serving drug support industry, are not the source of reliable, unbiased information. They make vast amounts of money by people forced into treatment by the courts. They are part of the prohibition industry, as are prisons and all law enforcement officers. To ask them to vote for legalisation is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

Of course we must legalise, which means that regulation must be in direct proportion to the potential a drug has to cause harm. That means regulate cannabis and MDMA as we do alcohol and clamp down on alcohol and nicotine so they are much more tightly controlled.

Safe, clean, reducing doses of heroin should be made available under medical supervision to those who need it.
Banning substances does not reduce use, all it does is increase harm. People are going to take drugs whatever moral or medical advice they are given. Therefore, society should do all it can to minimise harm, not maximise it as present policy does. The legal alternative alcohol, is the most dangerous, harmful and addictive drug of all so why would anyone take any notice of what the law says? It is clearly misleading and designed to protect vested interests rather than people. Similarly, I'm afraid that Ms Dawson and all those engaged in the self serving drug support industry, are not the source of reliable, unbiased information. They make vast amounts of money by people forced into treatment by the courts. They are part of the prohibition industry, as are prisons and all law enforcement officers. To ask them to vote for legalisation is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. Of course we must legalise, which means that regulation must be in direct proportion to the potential a drug has to cause harm. That means regulate cannabis and MDMA as we do alcohol and clamp down on alcohol and nicotine so they are much more tightly controlled. Safe, clean, reducing doses of heroin should be made available under medical supervision to those who need it. PJ Reynolds
  • Score: 23

10:54am Thu 19 Jun 14

prof. manxman says...

Ms Dawson, I think you dont really understand human behaviour and the best an healthiest way to serve our behaviour. Ppl of every age want to experiment, especially the younger generation. Do you not think by giving ppl a safer alternative to the legal highs that you say are killing us (which I know are completely incorrect stats from the giant media Corps'). Cleaner and safer controlled drugs is so obviously a better safer system than this stupid war on drugs that cant be won, cost us millions of pounds to fight which is a loosing battle and punishing ppl who prefer not to drink but to use safer ways to unwind and relax. And as science has proven, alcohol is one of the most harmful drugs out their. So you have to ask yourself, why is alcohol still legal and everything sale is not. I think most ppl with half a brain know the answer to that. Oh yeah, did I mention by keeping these less harmful drugs illegal you are making criminals richer and more powerful. Where ate your priorities.
Ms Dawson, I think you dont really understand human behaviour and the best an healthiest way to serve our behaviour. Ppl of every age want to experiment, especially the younger generation. Do you not think by giving ppl a safer alternative to the legal highs that you say are killing us (which I know are completely incorrect stats from the giant media Corps'). Cleaner and safer controlled drugs is so obviously a better safer system than this stupid war on drugs that cant be won, cost us millions of pounds to fight which is a loosing battle and punishing ppl who prefer not to drink but to use safer ways to unwind and relax. And as science has proven, alcohol is one of the most harmful drugs out their. So you have to ask yourself, why is alcohol still legal and everything sale is not. I think most ppl with half a brain know the answer to that. Oh yeah, did I mention by keeping these less harmful drugs illegal you are making criminals richer and more powerful. Where ate your priorities. prof. manxman
  • Score: 13

2:21am Fri 20 Jun 14

stonedguy666 says...

Prohibition of paricular drugs does cause more harm for instance alot of people do it simply because the law says you cant, in my opinion I don't think all drugs should be legalized just thjngs like cannabis which probably does more good than harm look at alcohol thats legal and alot more dangerous it kills lots of people every year whereas cannabis doesn't if I had the choice id ban alcohol and make cannabis legal, and as for protecting minors just puta strict enforcment on it like alcohol, people need to open there eyes and stop feeding us with lies
Prohibition of paricular drugs does cause more harm for instance alot of people do it simply because the law says you cant, in my opinion I don't think all drugs should be legalized just thjngs like cannabis which probably does more good than harm look at alcohol thats legal and alot more dangerous it kills lots of people every year whereas cannabis doesn't if I had the choice id ban alcohol and make cannabis legal, and as for protecting minors just puta strict enforcment on it like alcohol, people need to open there eyes and stop feeding us with lies stonedguy666
  • Score: -4

3:18pm Sat 21 Jun 14

MateoB says...

I think there may be a semantic issue here. Perhaps what we should look at before "legalization" is "decriminalization". As Ms. Dawson points out, addicts (which have nothing to do with psychedelics like MDMA which are non-addictive, and incidentally have been shown to be extremely effective in the treatment of addiction) are not violent criminals, they're just people dealing with difficult issues. Which is why they should not be treated as criminals.
To spend money locking people in prison for being addicts is essentially saying, "you're not doing a good enough job ruining your life. Let us help." As Ms. Dawson points out though, arresting someone gives us an excuse to offer treatment. So why not just skip the jail part and offer addicts treatment?
Then the question becomes, what is the appropriate response to marijuana, MDMA, psilocybin and LSD users? I'd say drugs like these which are not addictive or harmful in and of themselves (they are only dangerous when used irresponsibly or in combination with certain medicines and by the fact that they are illegal and often adulterated) should be legal to use responsibly. We are learning that psychedelics are powerful aids for self-exploration and treating a number of psychological issues, so I would advocate either offering a license which would allow people to purchase psychedelics or offering them through special clinics where they can be used safely and with the support of knowledgeable staff.
I think there may be a semantic issue here. Perhaps what we should look at before "legalization" is "decriminalization". As Ms. Dawson points out, addicts (which have nothing to do with psychedelics like MDMA which are non-addictive, and incidentally have been shown to be extremely effective in the treatment of addiction) are not violent criminals, they're just people dealing with difficult issues. Which is why they should not be treated as criminals. To spend money locking people in prison for being addicts is essentially saying, "you're not doing a good enough job ruining your life. Let us help." As Ms. Dawson points out though, arresting someone gives us an excuse to offer treatment. So why not just skip the jail part and offer addicts treatment? Then the question becomes, what is the appropriate response to marijuana, MDMA, psilocybin and LSD users? I'd say drugs like these which are not addictive or harmful in and of themselves (they are only dangerous when used irresponsibly or in combination with certain medicines and by the fact that they are illegal and often adulterated) should be legal to use responsibly. We are learning that psychedelics are powerful aids for self-exploration and treating a number of psychological issues, so I would advocate either offering a license which would allow people to purchase psychedelics or offering them through special clinics where they can be used safely and with the support of knowledgeable staff. MateoB
  • Score: -1

8:04pm Sat 21 Jun 14

sbkw1983 says...

Taking away a non-violent person's freedom because he or she happens to prefer "taking the edge off" by consuming parts of a plant instead of alcohol (which is a known neurotoxin, cardiotoxin, and hepatotoxin) is irrational, and motivated by "concerns" having absolutely nothing to do with health. Alcohol is also quite habit forming, which is heightened by the fact that going cold turkey off of it (acute withdrawal) is considered a medical emergency which can end in death (as occurred tragically in the case of Amy Winehouse).

There are countless functional recreational consumers of marijuana who are very punctual, skilled, and dedicated to their workforce contribution. They also pay their taxes, abide by every other law in existence, and don't cause trouble or behave belligerently in public - which is more than I can say for the average consumer of alcoholic beverages who can easily go from silent to violent in a matter of minutes, and capable of causing a lot of physical harm to his significant other.

It is examples like the one above which are precisely why the "street drug" using minority sees its prejudicial and prohibitionist counterpart of society as leading a life of double-standards.

It is examples such as the fact that street drugs are available in prisons across the nation - smuggled in by those who swore to uphold the law - which serve to undermine any remaining sound logic in relation to the war on (the people who choose to use street) drugs.

After 43 years of the same never-ending futility of crime and profit disguised as crime and punishment, where private prisons sue their governments if their inmate levels go below a certain percentage in relation to the number of available beds, and in which the prisoners are forced to work unreasonable amounts of hours every day for less than a dollar, or be sent to solitary confinement where they slowly lose their minds, makes it pretty clear why there exists such international organizations such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or why the US is the world's biggest jailor, with about 5% of the world's population, and 25% of the world's prison population respectively (well ahead of Russia and China).

The police can continue to grasp at the remaining straws all they want in order to fill their monthly drug-bust quotas, which will do a lot more harm to the victim of such incidents than smoking some marijuana, but will help the arresting officer to receive that eagerly-awaited promotion, and the ability to afford that convertible he always wanted.

And meanwhile, his victim, a non-violent marijuana smoker who is otherwise an honest, law-abiding individual, is looking at a shattered life for reasons related more to the fact the he was caught using a street drug, and little else if anything. Capitalism at its worst - blurring the line between it and fascism (at least from the caught marijuana smoker's perspective, and perhaps many others like him).

Hopefully this era of unjust oppression against marijuana consumers, and other plants which have been used for thousands of years, will end soon, and the cops can go back to chasing after actual crimes in which the victim did not consent to being victimized, because a detective deserves a promotion for once, even if (s)he doesn't fill up his/her quota as quickly as the average narc nowadays.
Taking away a non-violent person's freedom because he or she happens to prefer "taking the edge off" by consuming parts of a plant instead of alcohol (which is a known neurotoxin, cardiotoxin, and hepatotoxin) is irrational, and motivated by "concerns" having absolutely nothing to do with health. Alcohol is also quite habit forming, which is heightened by the fact that going cold turkey off of it (acute withdrawal) is considered a medical emergency which can end in death (as occurred tragically in the case of Amy Winehouse). There are countless functional recreational consumers of marijuana who are very punctual, skilled, and dedicated to their workforce contribution. They also pay their taxes, abide by every other law in existence, and don't cause trouble or behave belligerently in public - which is more than I can say for the average consumer of alcoholic beverages who can easily go from silent to violent in a matter of minutes, and capable of causing a lot of physical harm to his significant other. It is examples like the one above which are precisely why the "street drug" using minority sees its prejudicial and prohibitionist counterpart of society as leading a life of double-standards. It is examples such as the fact that street drugs are available in prisons across the nation - smuggled in by those who swore to uphold the law - which serve to undermine any remaining sound logic in relation to the war on (the people who choose to use street) drugs. After 43 years of the same never-ending futility of crime and profit disguised as crime and punishment, where private prisons sue their governments if their inmate levels go below a certain percentage in relation to the number of available beds, and in which the prisoners are forced to work unreasonable amounts of hours every day for less than a dollar, or be sent to solitary confinement where they slowly lose their minds, makes it pretty clear why there exists such international organizations such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or why the US is the world's biggest jailor, with about 5% of the world's population, and 25% of the world's prison population respectively (well ahead of Russia and China). The police can continue to grasp at the remaining straws all they want in order to fill their monthly drug-bust quotas, which will do a lot more harm to the victim of such incidents than smoking some marijuana, but will help the arresting officer to receive that eagerly-awaited promotion, and the ability to afford that convertible he always wanted. And meanwhile, his victim, a non-violent marijuana smoker who is otherwise an honest, law-abiding individual, is looking at a shattered life for reasons related more to the fact the he was caught using a street drug, and little else if anything. Capitalism at its worst - blurring the line between it and fascism (at least from the caught marijuana smoker's perspective, and perhaps many others like him). Hopefully this era of unjust oppression against marijuana consumers, and other plants which have been used for thousands of years, will end soon, and the cops can go back to chasing after actual crimes in which the victim did not consent to being victimized, because a detective deserves a promotion for once, even if (s)he doesn't fill up his/her quota as quickly as the average narc nowadays. sbkw1983
  • Score: -6

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