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.