The war on drugs is a constant losing battle. At 16, I would say around a third of my peers had at least tried cannabis, and probably a fifth was using it regularly. By 18 MDMA and ecstacy was the drug of choice, until the government put restrictions on the chemicals required for making it, slowing (but not stopping) the flow of party drugs. But rather than do anything to reduce the impact on public health or crime it produced two further problems – people who will bulk out what they can get hold of with much more dangerous, often bathroom chemicals and "designer drugs".
The government wants to reduce crime, and reduce numbers in prison. Much of the petty crime committed is to fund drugs, people get hooked and their only concern is feeding their addiction. I think the government should remove all prison time for personal possession, replacing it with enforced drug treatment programs for stronger drugs. There should be a legally binding statement specifying what amounts class as possession with intent to supply and all sentences for supply increased.
The legalisation of safer alternatives should come into public vote. It is clear that prohibition is doing very little to curb drug use – They make MDMA harder to get, so people seek alternatives. Banning a drug takes months, by the time it goes through there will be a new one to worry about. Mephedrone got banned, they are now worried about naphyrone. There is 60 years research into the effects of MDMA, and pretty much nothing on these designer drugs.
In fact most drug deaths from the classic drugs such as cocaine can be attributed to either purity problems or underlying health problems. Prohibition is pushing drug culture towards drugs we no very little about.
In February 2009, the government was accused by Professor Nutt of making a political decision with regard to drug classification in rejecting the scientific advice to downgrade ecstasy from a class A drug. The Advisory Council for the MIsuse of Drugs report on ecstasy, based on a 12-month study of 4,000 academic papers, concluded that it is not as dangerous as other class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine, and should be downgraded to class B. The advice was not followed.
The government should listen to independant advisory boards and should they disagree with a decision the only grounds of appeal should be though a third independant board. What is the point of having an independant party involved if the government can simply choose to ignore it if they don't agree?
The cultivation of cannabis should be legalised for small scale production upon purchase of a yearly licence. The revenue produced from this can go on the drug treatment programs to reduce the impact of harder drugs.
Why does this idea matter?
No amount of prohibition is going to stop the drugs coming in. The prisons are full of theives who steal for their fix. The public money being spent on health and policing connected with drugs is only going to go up. Reduce inmate counts by decriminalizing users – charge them for the crimes they commit to buy their drugs and force people to get treated rather than staying trapped in a cycle of crime. Lock up the people higher up the chain in the drug rings, defining what would constitute an arrestable amount for each drug. Stop trying to keep up with the new drugs by making easier access to pharmacutical grade drugs with years of research behind them.
Ultimately there will be less deaths from reckless young users trying untested chemicals, lower prison numbers meaning people who should be in prison longer can be, more time for policing other crimes and increasing support and funding for the only thing that actually reduces drug use – drug treatment programs.