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;
â€œI have just been reading the Coalition Governmentâ€™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 â€“ which included David Cameron â€“ 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 governmentâ€™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.â€
This is big. Transform has reactions from various leaders to this news:
Labourâ€™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 â€œappropriateâ€, 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 includeâ€”
(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 areâ€”
(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.