Another email that I received and from Ben, who gave me permission to print in full.
At last someone who shares my concerns about legalising. And I have to agree totally with the last 2 paragraphs. My sentiments exactly.
Nadia, just a thought based on the last paragraph of Ali's contribution, and some statistics I vaguely remember Oliver Letwin spouting in Bournemouth when he was Shadow Home Sec.
90% or so of acquisitive crime is drug related.
In the UK, at the retail end of the drug supply, we have a nightmarishly bad system. People are locked up, given little help if any, then pushed straight back out onto the same streets.
Talking to those agencies like Focus 12, where Chip Somers will tell you that the key to staying straight is learning how to break that cycle, you can certainly see the argument for legalisation (an argument he was absolutely against when last we spoke).
The argument for legalisation is a sensible one, based on cost/benefit analysis. If you legalise and regulate the use of many of the illegal drugs on the market today, you would be able to raise revenue through duty, and remove a huge amount of the work the police would have to provide, reducing their workload and saving a couple of billion pounds from the Home Office budget.
However. All that saving would go straight onto the NHS budget. Treatment is hard. There is nowhere near enough treatment available. Illegal drugs are illegal based on scientific evidence criteria.
Drugs like Heroin and Crack Cocaine, or Crystal Methamphetamine, are harmful to use. They are highly addictive, and are designed to become more addictive. There are chemists out there working for organised crime who are designing synthetic forms of these drugs to boost the addictive qualities (just like tobacco manufacturers used to do) and the problem is that the need to feed the habit will eventually become all consuming to the user.
I have used recreational drugs in the past. Alcohol and tobacco mainly. I also tried cannabis but it did nothing for me so I didn't bother.
I know others who regularly used recreational drugs and I have seen them destroy their lives.
A maths teacher who smoked cannabis on a regular basis and ended up sounding like Ozzy Osbourne and unable to work a till in a pub because he couldn't add up.
A school friend who smoked just one spliff of cannabis with a high THC content and went on to suffer from panic attacks for the next 10 years.
Another school friend who was so disturbed by his use of cannabis that he hung himself in his bedroom.
An acquaintance from my younger days who tried every drug under the sun and dropped dead at 29 from heart failure.
Another friend whose fiancee dropped dead at 26 whilst asleep, following years of drug abuse.
These drugs kill. Using them will kill you eventually. Or it might not. You might be lucky.
But it really is Russian roulette.
The country needs to spend far more budget on dealing with the organised crime (narco-terrorists) who bring the stuff in, or increasingly produce it here. The cannabis growing trade in Ipswich is controlled by the Vietnamese for instance. Crack and heroin comes up from London as well as across from Liverpool. Ectasy comes from Holland via Harwich and Felixstowe. Cocaine mostly comes up from London or down from Glasgow and Manchester. All of it is easily available. Far too easily available.
Drug pushers are bad people when they are selling drugs to addicts. Whether that be the landlord of the pub serving a known alcoholic, or the doctor who continues to prescribe Vicodin to a patient who is addicted, or the street level dealer pushing to kids on bikes.
We need to have a serious think about how we are going to approach drugs policy in the UK. I can understand the legalisation approach but to me that is abrogating responsibility. We cannot just give up because it is hard. We have to redouble our efforts to tackle supply, whilst simultaneously providing help and support to victims so as to reduce demand.
The same arguments were made five years ago about street prostitution. I remember quite senior people telling me that the strategy wouldn't work, that it would push prostitutes to different areas of town but they'd come back, that it would push it to other towns, etc. To some minor extent there has been some of that, but you won the battle against street prostitution. Why not win the one against drugs as well?