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Big news: UK’s former Drugs and Defence Minister says ‘Legalize and Regulate Drugs’

Breaking right now at Transform Drug Policy Foundation Blog:

Bob Ainsworth MP, former Home Office drugs minister and Secretary of State for Defence, will call for the legalisation and regulation of drugs during a Parliamentary debate he is leading in Westminster Hall, at 2.30pm, Thurs 16th December 2010.

Mr Ainsworth said;

“I have just been reading the Coalition Government’s new Drugs Strategy. It is described by the Home Secretary as fundamentally different to what has gone before; it is not. To the extent that it is different, it is potentially harmful because it retreats from the principle of harm reduction, which has been one of the main reasons for the reduction in acquisitive crime in recent years.

However, prohibition has failed to protect us. Leaving the drugs market in the hands of criminals causes huge and unnecessary harms to individuals, communities and entire countries, with the poor the hardest hit. We spend billions of pounds without preventing the wide availability of drugs. It is time to replace our failed war on drugs with a strict system of legal regulation, to make the world a safer, healthier place, especially for our children. We must take the trade away from organised criminals and hand it to the control of doctors and pharmacists.

As drugs minister in the Home Office I saw how prohibition fails to reduce the harm that drugs cause in the UK, fuelling burglaries, gifting the trade to gangsters and increasing HIV infections. My experience as Defence Secretary, with specific responsibilities in Afghanistan, showed to me that the war on drugs creates the very conditions that perpetuate the illegal trade, while undermining international development and security.

My departure from the front benches gives me the freedom to express my long held view that, whilst it was put in place with the best of intentions, the war on drugs has been nothing short of a disaster.

Politicians and the media need to engage in a genuine and grown up debate about alternatives to prohibition, so that we can build a consensus based on delivering the best outcomes for our children and communities. I call on those on all sides of the debate to support an independent, evidence-based review, exploring all policy options, including: further resourcing the war on drugs, decriminalising the possession of drugs, and legally regulating their production and supply.

One way to do this would be an Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act in line with the 2002 Home Affairs Select Committee finding – which included David Cameron – for the government to explore alternatives to prohibition, including legal regulation.

The re-legalisation of alcohol in the US after thirteen years of Prohibition was not surrender. It was a pragmatic move based on the government’s need to retake control of the illegal trade from violent gangsters. After 50 years of global drug prohibition it is time for governments throughout the world to repeat this shift with currently illegal drugs.”

This is big. Transform has reactions from various leaders to this news:

Labour’s Paul Flynn MP said;


“This could be a turning point in the failing UK ‘war on drugs.’ Bob Ainsworth is the persuasive, respected voice of the many whose views have been silenced by the demands of ministerial office. Every open rational debate concludes that the UK’s harsh drugs prohibition has delivered the worst outcomes in Europe – deaths, drug crime and billions of pounds wasted.”

This follows a series of events in the UK that have been publicly showing a complete disconnect on the part of the government regarding any semblance of rational basis for drug policy.

As an example, check out UKCIA’s Dirty political tricks and the membership of the ACMD on the recent attempt on the part of the government in the so-called Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.

Buried in the bill was this inoffensive-sounding language:

(a) in sub-paragraph (1), omit the words after “appropriate”, and
(b) omit sub-paragraph (2)

Here’s what that was affecting (italicized part was the portion being cut):

(1) The members of the Advisory Council, of whom there shall be not less than twenty, shall be appointed by the Secretary of State after consultation with such organisations as he considers appropriate, and shall include—

(a) in relation to each of the activities specified in sub-paragraph (2) below, at least one person appearing to the Secretary of State to have wide and recent experience of that activity; and
(b) persons appearing to the Secretary of State to have wide and recent experience of social problems connected with the misuse of drugs.
(2) The activities referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(a) above are—

(a) the practice of medicine (other than veterinary medicine);
(b)the practice of dentistry;
(c) the practice of veterinary medicine;
(d) the practice of pharmacy;
(e) the pharmaceutical industry;
(f) chemistry other than pharmaceutical chemistry.

That’s right. In one unpublicized move, eliminating all independent scientific advice to the government regarding drug policy, because the science and truth didn’t fit their political agenda regarding drug policy.

This, following last year’s sacking of government drug advisor David Nutt for telling the truth about drugs, and the recent Lancet study ranking the harms of various drugs and putting alcohol way ahead of crack and heroin.

All of this has put the UK government on very shaky ground regarding drug policy, even though they have remained adamant and stubbornly resistant to facts.

The new blow of the news today from Bob Ainsworth could have major ripples.

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29 comments to Big news: UK’s former Drugs and Defence Minister says ‘Legalize and Regulate Drugs’

  • Dudeman

    I fear what will happen is that Fleet Street will squawk about skunk and meow meow and nothing whatsoever will change.

  • darkcycle

    Still, big news, the U.K. has been trying to roll back policy and public opinion on drugs for a decade or more now, and nobody of any consequence has stood in the way.

  • claygooding

    First an African nation is waiting on a judicial ruling to legalize marijuana and now our oldest ally and really a mother country to our nation is bailing out on America’s
    war on marijuana,WOW
    I would give a dollar for a pic of Kerli’s face when he hears this,,,,,,maybe Allan could snap the pic

  • Paul

    Encouraging. Note how it is always a former leader who chooses to speak out about the drug war. Obviously, our politicians more or less know the truth, but they don’t dare actually DO something about it.

    It is also interesting to see that our leaders really are more progressive in their minds than the general public is, but we are democracies, more or less, so the leaders reflect the will of the people however irrational.

    The real mind changing has to be aimed at the public in general, with the politicians eventually following. Time is on our side, since the older a person is the more anti-legalization they tend to be.

    The recent legalization proposition in California gave us a good idea where we really stand on marijuana: a very large minority, large enough to be a completely respectable and mainstream position, but not quite enough to win an election. That may change in our favor over the next few years.

    I don’t hold out much hope on the other drugs right now, and that is unfortunate, because drugs other than marijuana are where the most serious harms are to be found. Perhaps the mood in the UK is different, and we may be about to see some real change there. But don’t hold your breath.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by MaryJane Cannabian, Ethan Nadelmann. Ethan Nadelmann said: UK news: Bob Ainsworth MP, former Home Office drugs minister & Sec. State for Defence, to speak out for legalization. http://bit.ly/gjUfQE […]

  • Servetus

    There are two ways nations change their national policies. Change comes from within, and change is inflicted from the outside by foreign nations.

    If Britain can solve its drug war problem before the United States solves theirs, the political impact will immediately sink the prohibs’ war in the U.S.

    I wish England and all other nations the best in their incremental efforts to stem the red tide of prohibition.

  • Breaking news…

    Willie Nelson to hold a Cannabis-Aid Festival in the summer of 2011 to kick off his pro-hemp run for President. “Actually it’s still Farm-Aid, we’re just wanting to help out farmers like North Dakota’s David Monson receive the freedom once all farmers in these states used to have – the freedom to grow hemp.”

    Don’t I wish… sigh… my entry in the “press release I’d most like to see” competition.

  • Ben Mann

    HUGE news. The biggest hurdle to getting public debate has always been that every single politician lines up in favor of prohibition. So who is there to debate in favor of ending the drug war? It can’t always be drug-reform advocates. If the message is going to reach and influence people, it MUST come from elected officials with clout, whom the public can trust to think issues through and come to an independent conclusion.

    If the UK has a serious debate, perhaps America will see that it can, too.

  • Holding your breath...

    …could be dangerous to your health. Lets ban it.

    Really dont hold your breath. This encouraging news but, the truth these days is being treated as though your saying the world is round in a flat earth society.

  • Rhayader

    I’m really glad that Ainsworth has taken the time to so clearly state the problems with the prohibition approach. He hits the nail right on the head. But it always bugs me to read something like this:

    My departure from the front benches gives me the freedom to express my long held view…

    So this guy was one of the most prominent drug policy officials in the UK for years, and didn’t have the courage to publicly admit what he knew to be the truth until after he left his position? Obviously I agree with Ainsworth’s views, but the time to express them would have been while he had the power and influence granted by his position.

    This is a bit of a recurring theme. We’ve seen several former Latin American officials call for legalization. LEAP is full of former criminal justice workers calling for legalization. Bob Barr is a former Senator now advocating legalization. These are admirable activities, but we need the people who see these problems to speak up when they still have the ability to do something about it. How many lives have been destroyed while public officials all over the world who know better nonetheless abide by the status quo conventional wisdom?

  • darkcycle

    You’re right. These powerful people supported prohibition while they were in office. They didn’t take a stand when they were in a position of power and could have affected things. It’s true. It’s frustrating, and I believe these people should admit the duplicity invoved and in some way make up for the lives they’ve damaged.
    I also believe, that to GET to these positions of power you have to either buy into the prohib. line of bullshit or at least PRETEND to. Czargil has to lie, it’s part of his job description. I would guess that there are similar stipulations for every anti-drug head in the world. After all, how are you going to assure your lies are propogated? You institutionalize them. David Nutt spoke his mind and was summarily sacked.
    I have a hard time accepting people who will ignore what they know to be right in pursuit of a position or a paycheck. But that is human nature and I decided a long time ago that while it’s understandable, it is still reprehensible. I agree with the posters above to the extent that these people should be held acountable for the damage they have caused. But I an also in a way glad to have them (sometimes). They can influence people who would never listen to us in a million years.

  • Duncan20903

    Boo fucking hoo. The EU just ruled that Holland can ban people from other countries from enjoying an evening in their coffee shops.

  • claygooding

    I think it is great that they are considering banning foreigners from their coffee shops,now maybe some of their former customers will go back home and get serious about legalization/decriminalization in their own country,thus spreading the ending of prohibition world wide.
    It is a fact that humans,for the most part,are lazy and without enthusiasm for putting out more effort than the have to,and this is why commercialized marijuana will make taxes and money for the corporations that invest in growing it because if you can get it at the bud store,why grow your own?
    When the neighboring countries can no longer drive a few kilometers to pick up their bud,it may just give them enough purpose to do something about their own laws.

  • darkcycle

    The impact on the economy of these small communities is going to derail this right quick. The Dutch are nothing if not keenly aware of commercial opportunities, and commerce lost. The stupider the policy of this current Government, the quicker the Dutch will shed themselves of it.

  • claygooding

    Great job at the Telegraph Malcolm,totally covered so much,with sources,that there was too little to add,

  • malcolm kyle

    Thanks Clay! It was too easy; Limeys are much thinner skinned than Yanks. One guy run off crying after taking great offense to my very short ‘Prohibitionists = Simpletons’ post.

  • Oh no, not my paycheck!!...

    Rhayader :
    ” How many lives have been destroyed while public officials all over the world who know better nonetheless abide by the status quo conventional wisdom?”

    Absolutely! Isnt it these peoples JOB while While in office to protect people from such injustices. I mean really , what good is it to be elected to an office if your ineffective.

    To all elected officials: It is not your job to sit on your hands and say nothing to the injustices being served to the people just to keep your jobs. If your in a popularity contest , your in the wrong job. Go to hollywood!

  • Can you say...

    …Stupidity on capitol hill?

    I see stupid people on the hill.

    no one can hear you scream on the hill.

    mamma always told me stupid is as stupid does on the hill.

    stupid and stupider…goes to the hill.

    droppydog does the hill

    cheech and chongs bad dreams on the hill.

    planet terror on the hill.

    dark city on the hill.

    doom on the hill.

    HELLO, IS THERE ANY LIFE ON THE HILL?!

    dude. wheres my government?

    Three Lies for the president-like kings under the sky,
    Seven for the FDA-lords in their halls of stone,
    Nine for the Mortal Justices doomed to die,
    One for the Darklord Gil on his dark throne
    In the land of ONDCP where shadows lie.
    One lie to rule them all, one lie to find them,
    One lie to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
    In the land of ONDCP where the shadows lie.

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .
    .
    Wow, almost 11 tons of pot in one bust. The vehicle used for smuggling it was a fricking freight train. I must say I don’t recall hearing about a freight train as part of smuggling operations. 21,800 pounds, wow. When I try to enter the data into my calculator to find out how many “joints” that is it short circuits and dies. That’s a lot of joints.

    http://www.wlsam.com/Article.asp?id=2058481&spid=

    ————————————————————

    Shame on you Malcolm. Why don’t you pick on somebody that’s your own brain size? These poor Know Nothings get confused very easily you know.

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .
    .
    I guess I might think a pretty powerful statement if the admitted that they were somehow compelled to lie, whether by statute or by a desire to comply with they see as their duties within the “social contract”. Just make it clear that telling bald faced lies is an integral part of the job. That could be enough to discredit the current set of liars if the public gets the message.

  • Duncan20903

    .
    .
    .
    Tom Petty has joined the fun! OK he joined in months ago and I’m slow to catch on.

    ————— Don’t Pull Me Over (Mr. Policeman) —————

    “When the moonlight turns to blue light
    Makes me so afraid
    So let me go
    Leave me alone
    ’til I’m home and safe

    Don’t pull me over
    let me pass on by
    Don’t pull me over
    Should be legalized

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esuBPvOL-rc

  • warren

    I think they want to start burning witches again. The U.S. has a good excuse were a bunch of war mongering imperialists with a little cheap labor [slave trade] to boot.

  • kaptinemo

    “I think they want to start burning witches again.”

    Warren, in a way, they already are.

    The witches were the wiccans, the word means ‘the wise’. ‘Wise’ as in wise to the ways of Nature, including medicinal plants. But that requires a lot of native intelligence, open-mindedness and out-of-the-box thinking. In short, it requires a mindset that finds lockstep, rigid thought processes intolerable. The kind of mindset most often manifested in those who consciously, forthrightly use, for whatever reason, any psychotropics to achieve an expanded mental state.

    I have always maintained that, on an almost instinctual level, below consciousness and an ability to articulate, our opponents sense this. They also sense this as a threat to rigid authoritarian governance, be it religious or secular in nature…or both. Witness what happened a few years back at some outdoor music gathering, where the participants were peaceably assembled in a very remote location in Utah when the local constabulary swooped in and engaged in some of the vilest (and therefore, typical) treatment of their paymasters, who were causing no problems for anyone.

    Such gatherings (i.e. Rainbow Gathering, Burning Man, etc.) are seen as being ‘unChristian’, ‘pagan’, etc. and threatening to those who view life with such narrow perspectives, and thus must be squashed in the name of preserving the patriarchal, bellicose dominant culture. And the minority’s symbols must be condemned and eradicated at every opportunity, to ‘show who’s boss’. Typical lizard-brain ‘thinking’. And that means banning psychotropics out of that ugly, stupid reflex.

    So…yes, we’re the ideological descendants of all those poor men and women who were slaughtered (some say 9 million women alone in 4 centuries) for daring to be ‘different’ and respecting of knowledge rather than bowing to shutter-brained ignorance enforced with brutal vehemence

    In short, ‘recreational’ drug users are the ideological descendants of the old ‘witches’. I can’t think of better company to be in…

  • and add this to the stew:

    GUATEMALA: Ending the Never-Ending War on Drugs

    Source: Guatemala Times (Guatemala)
    Pubdate: 16 Dec 10
    Author: Fernando Henrique Cardoso

    SAO PAULO – The war on drugs is a lost war, and 2011 is the time to move away from a punitive approach in order to pursue a new set of policies based on public health, human rights, and common sense. These were the core findings of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy that I convened, together with former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and César Gaviria of Colombia.

    We became involved with this issue for a compelling reason: the violence and corruption associated with drug trafficking represents a major threat to democracy in our region. This sense of urgency led us to evaluate current policies and look for viable alternatives. The evidence is overwhelming. The prohibitionist approach, based on repression of production and criminalization of consumption, has clearly failed.

  • The Lemmings .......

    …Other countries must start leading to end this shithole war on people. Our elected officials will follow each othe off a cliff. This is demonstarted not only in the war on drug, but in their financial policies and international policies.

    This is America, were calling on the world to show the way out of this idiocy.

  • DdC

    Warren, in a way, they already are.
    ~ kaptinemo

    I think its way, way more than in a way. Actually its so unbelievably close to the dark times of the past I find it hard to comprehend how bassackwrds we’ve gone as a society. Hogan’s Hero’s had a pot belly stove for warmth in their stalag while Boosh Jr thought Citgo was wrong for giving free heating oil to seniors. It wouldn’t be fair to Exxon profits. Janet Edgar and Junkie Joe McCarthy would be giddy with the Patriot Ax and the other hatchets from HEA to RAVE. Modern technology and primitive prejudges. Back to a ruling class dictating how workers taxes are spent while perverse lackey’s gut workers and their families protections. Fighting tooth and nail against democracy for the highest bidder. While the drowning sheep keep refusing the life preservers we keep throwing at them by ending this stupid war. Next they will declare the public a danger to themselves and deem them wards of the state. As long as the TV gets reception, few will even notice. Witch hunters, cross burners, Antisemitic gay bashing hippie phoebic slaves one upping each other for a rung on the ladder. The degenerate drug worriers don’t have to hunt for me, I’m happy to side with the Wiccans.

    Witch hunts and the war on weed 20 Jun, 2002
    The persecution of “witches” was really a war on sacred plants that continues today.

    Time To Again Mobilize Against Marijuana DWR 12.16.10
    CN Source: Christian Science Monitor December 16, 2010

    Isn’t Christian Science an oxymoron?
    One word, not Rush Limbog the moron on oxy.

    A people’s history of the United States:
    1492-present By Howard Zinn

    The Aftermath of the First Thanksgiving: Censorship

    “Although medical marijuana is legal in certain states, police still feel that they have a right to bust marijuana users, that it is part of their job description. Although marijuana users might feel good about these laws loosening, the police feel they have lost a fun means of building up arrests and ruining lives. They resent it. What fun is it going out on the beat if you cant beat some hippie and then arrest him for resisting arrest?”
    ~ Ed Rosenthal

  • […] * Former Drugs and Defence Minister says “Legalize and Regulate Drugs” […]