Monday, 3 August 2009

An Officer Speaks: Should Drugs Be Legalised?

I apologise to everyone who regularly visits my blog that I have not been posting for some time now. One reason is that I simply do not have the time. Another is that I have determined not to respond to any adverse media reports concerning the police services of England and Wales. Why? Well, other police bloggers do so and I would merely be writing about the same topic but in a different manner. As I have said before, I only ever wanted to explore what it is to be a police officer and to share this with a wider audience. I wanted to demonstrate that being a police officer isn't just a job, it's a vocation, something that affects every aspect of your life whether on-duty or not.

I can't think of any better way to illustrate the above other than in this latest guest posting. It's from a police officer in Canada who devotes his own time to an issue he feels very strongly about: the legalisation of drugs. Of course, I have read about this in numerous newspapers, but it has always been portrayed as an indication of defeat on the war against drugs to even to consider it. I'm still undecided on the issue, but will certainly post a comment once I have digested what Officer Bratzer has written.


I would like to thank the Inspector for the opportunity to write this guest post. A successful blog represents a great personal effort and it was gracious of the Inspector to share a community of readers drawn together by his excellent writing.

A little about me: my name is David Bratzer and I am a police officer from Canada. I have a strong interest in drug policy reform which I pursue off-duty as a volunteer with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP is an international organization of 13,000 current and former law enforcement officers who seek to minimize death, disease, crime and addiction by gradually legalizing and regulating all drugs. I should clarify that my opinions are my own and they do not represent those of my police department. Also, I still enforce the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act while on-duty (this is the act that criminalizes drug use in Canada). This might seem hypocritical - and often I do feel that way - but one can’t swear an oath to uphold the law and then pick and choose which laws to enforce.

The argument in favour of legalizing drugs like cocaine, heroin and ecstasy is not that they are beneficial or fun. Instead, LEAP argues these drugs are so dangerous they need to be regulated and controlled by the government. Under prohibition, the government has no control. It is the drug dealer who chooses price, purity, cutting agents as well as business location and operating hours. And these dealers certainly are not asking minors for ID, nor are they encouraging their
customers to moderate or abstain from drug use.

After decades of heavy enforcement, illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent and more available than ever before. By legalizing and regulating drugs, the British government could launch an economic war against organized crime by removing the profit motive from the black market.

Although legalization might seem like some kind of crazy utopian idea, it is actually a well researched crime control theory with broad support from across the political spectrum. This includes conservative organizations such as;

The Economist magazine as well as The UK Libertarian Party which promotes the “legalisation of all narcotic substances for adult consumption” as part of its platform.

LEAP has several representatives in the UK: Francis Wilkinson, retired Chief Constable from Gwent; Paul Whitehouse, former Chief Constable of Sussex; and James Duffy, a retired police inspector from Scotland. The Transform Drug Policy Foundation maintains a more complete list of officers who believe the current drug laws should be partially or fully abolished.

LEAP also offers stealth membership for those officers who are concerned about personal attacks and harassment if they go public with their views. You might have noticed that many of the names above are retired officers or senior police managers. Perhaps the readers of this blog can enlighten me: what are the laws and policies in the United Kingdom regarding police officers and free speech? What would happen if rank-and-file serving officers called for drug legalization as a public safety measure?

This is an important question because the War on Drugs has been a disaster for British police agencies. It is time for officers at all levels to acknowledge the significant damage done to the vital profession of policing through the enforcement of drug prohibition.

These consequences include diminished public respect, alienation from youth, recruiting difficulties, increased call loads, budget pressures, unfavourable case law, drug-related corruption and on-duty officer injuries and deaths.

Drug trafficking and drug use are consensual but harmful activities. Criminalizing these activities instead of regulating them results in gang violence, organized crime, property crime and the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. Police and the legal professions must examine crime control efforts with a critical eye, particularly in the area of drug policy because the time for change is long overdue.

What do you think? Should drugs be legalized and regulated?


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48 comments:

  1. This was a very well written and thought through article. We could use a lot more educated and inteligent cop's like Mr. Bratzer. The W.O.D. has alienated people from the police and almost all authority figure's and because of that our neighborhood's and communities have suffered greatly because of it. people are not going to get involved with the police for any reason that may bring them to their house when they are at risk of being searched and areested for a small amount of personel use cannabis.i have seen countless crimes go unreported due to the fact that people dont want the cops around because they fear they will be searched questioned or arrested for a drug charge while reporting another crime... this failure of a war has corupted good cops and bad alike and has not brought one bit closer to it's goal of a drug free world..It's time we started listening to the people who know and put an end to this travesty once and for all

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  2. Definitely a lot of sense floating about in the above article - I just wonder whether any of the Powers That Be are prepared to listen.

    With anyone above federated ranks seeming content to enforce current political 'thinking' rather than risk their next promotion - and with no serious political personalities putting forward any sensible policies - I think we'll be locked in the current expensive and destructive cycle for some time to come.

    I personally dislike drugs, and have a healthy scorn for most drug users - but there are a lot of valid and well-reasoned arguments for considering legalising/regulating aspects of the drug culture.

    The problem is we don't seem to have anyone brave enough push for the UK to give it a go, but the current half-arsed approach simply makes the justice system look indecisive, weak and not representative of public opinion.

    @Anonymous - with regards to people not wishing to get involved with the police because of a bit of puff (why they don't just hide it before they call us, I don't know!) I've seen plenty of examples in my short service of PC's exercising their powers of discretion and concentrating on the more important offences - rather than hounding some middle-class toker victim for an easy SD.

    Cannabis use is widespread - we all know that, and most people (and many coppers) probably don't care if it goes on behind locked doors; they're more concerned with banging up robbers, burglars and rapists.

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  3. I am sympathetic to these arguments, but I cannot believe that legalization will actually do away with the types of illegal trade and abuse that exist today -- because addicts will keep being addicts, needing more money all the time for drugs, over-indulging, acting out, and seeking illegal sources for purer or more illicit highs. Prohibition is always pointed to as proof that prohibition doesn't work. Well, repealing prohibition didn't put an end to drunk driving, alcoholism, alcohol-fueled violence and homelessness, or any other alcohol-related social ill. Furthermore, in the United States, where treatment programs aren't universally funded and civil rights laws for resisting treatment prevail, there would be additional problems intervening in addiction -- it's most unlikely to work here, though we are an exception. An interesting blog about a parallel issue appears in "Roanoke Cop" today, cited beside this, the one appropriately titled "Stinky Drunk."

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  4. Do places that have legalised drugs have less drug-related crime? I’m not sure. I agree with Tina Trent’s sentiments. Legal or not, it’s probably still going to be a problem. I saw a documentary on Portugal about how things have been since their drug laws were relaxed and I still saw lots of social problems and crime, especially in deprived areas.
    I’d like instead to be very base about it. Would legalising and regulating drugs be cheaper for society? I imagine it would free up a lot of police time, but then you’d have to set up mechanisms to organise the regulation.
    Legal or not, druggies will continue to abuse drugs, steal from us to buy drugs and dealers will still kill each other. Chasing them round as we currently do seems to me to be futile. Perhaps if we relaxed the laws and saved some dosh, it could be spent on the NHS or Education or perhaps even Policing! (sorry, not policing, dunno what I was thinking)

    - Altercation

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  5. I really enjoyed reading this article, it's very persuasive. The comments made by Probbie and Tina are equally as valid. A part of me does support this proposal, our drugs laws and sentencing are more draconian than in any other area of criminal law, although it never gets to the root cause of the problem. However, another part of me has concerns about how this can be put into practice. Would the users be prescribed the drug according to the level of their addiction and daily usage? Or would they have to buy the drug at a cheaper rate than through the black market? If it's the former, the tax-payer will object I am sure. Also, what is to stop a user lying about the extent of their dependency in order to sell the surplus on. I've arrested many addicts for doing this with the heroin substitute methadone. If it's through the latter means of distribution, there is still the possibility users will commit acquisitive crime in order to fund their addiction. It could also happen if they are not given the dosage they feel they need. I'm still on the fence with this one. I need to do a bit more thinking.

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  6. Thanks for all the great comments so far. Tina, you are correct that there are still major problems with alcohol even though it is legal. However, what has changed in the United States since the repeal of prohibition is that pub owners no longer shoot each other in the streets to win territorial control. This was a real and common occurrence during the age of Al Capone. Nowadays these same pub owners get their contracts and their lawyers and they sort it out in court. This is something that can be done with a legal and regulated substance but not when a substance is illegal.

    Also, that if one is going to regulate drug use - including alcohol - then it makes sense to regulate each substance according to its potential for damage. There are a number of aspects that can be regulated, including age minimums, user licenses, price, purity, location of dispensaries, safe consumption sites/zones, advertising, branding, etc. (For those who are interested in what a regulated drug market might look like, please have a look at "After the War on Drugs - Options for Control" by the Transform Drug Policy Foundation.)

    In this respect I believe that governments have made some serious mistakes in the regulation of alcohol by permitting advertising and branding. A can of beer should have a huge, graphic warning label and little, if any branding or logos. The power of regulation and education should not be underestimated. Tobacco, for example, is a harmful but legal addictive substance. Though education and regulation, tobacco use declined 40 percent between 1965 and 1990 in the United States. The same cannot be said of cocaine or marijuana.

    Thanks again - David Bratzer

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  7. I think it's good to have the discussion and I confess I have not made up my mind. I sometimes wonder whether a complete free-for-all would be any worse than with alcohol but then I see people destroying their lives through drugs and I think to myself "do we really want more people to try them and possibly get addicted?".

    As for the politicians you won't find many politicians who are willing to go against massive majority opinion on this. I bet more than 75% of voters do not want legalisation. It would be political suicide for a politician to propose it in their manifesto. Look what Brown did to curry a bit of popularity: upgraded Cannabis against the recommendations.

    As for cops openly discussing the issues: we are not allowed to in the UK. Officers are not allowed to be politically active and although it harms "free speech" you can see why. Imagine if you saw someone delivering leaflets for whichever party or pressure group and the next week saw them in uniform on the streets. Would you think they were giving a professional service to everyone? I know as well as anyone else that it is possible for officers to separate issues out but part of justice being done is the appearance of justice being done.

    Phew, long comment. My apologies.

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  8. I have had raging debates on this very subject with friends and collegues. It is all good and well to cite the cost of the war on drugs as a reason to discontinue it and opt for regulation, but what then?

    The vast majority of serious drug users are a problem to the authorities looong before they first discover the joys of getting off thier tits on crack. This will invariably continue. Dealers will, no doubt, continue to buy excess off of users with prescritions and sell it on for vast profit to underage users.

    Our debates have raised the following pertinant questions:-

    How do you satisfy the criteria for getting a prescription in the first place?

    How do you actually prescribe it to people? Give them the stuff to enjoy at home, or require them to attend a dispensary where they would be medically administered their hit?

    Would certain professions be barred from addiction? The concept of a train driver clucking away at the front of an intercity horrifys me.

    What if we're all allowed to enjoy this wonderful new recreation and enjoy it, how do you maintain a workforce when we're all blissfully spark out with needles in our arms?

    How do the authorities bat away the first law suit from a family of a drug user who o.d's on legally obtained gear?

    Having seen a univeristy graduate with a £70,000 a year job, put it all in his arms and end up wallowing in his own shit within five years while drifting wonderfully from brown to crack and crystal meth at weekends, i am absolutely against legalising drugs. The system we have isn't perfect, but it is much much better than a free-for-all alternative.

    End rant

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  9. Sierra Charlie - thanks for the comment. It seems unlikely that there would be an explosion of addicts if drugs were legalized. Drugs are so available now that people who want to use them are already using them. The idea, for example, that someone secretly wants to become addicted to heroin but is patiently waiting for heroin to become legal doesn't make sense.

    The Portugal experiment provided good evidence of this. They decriminalized simple possession of all drugs in 2001. Eight years later, drug use has decreased, overdose deaths have gone down, the rate of HIV infections has gone down, and the number of people seeking treatment has doubled.

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  10. Of course drugs should be legalised. I must admit that it took me some time to come to this conclusion but once I did, anything else looks silly.

    Forget about prescriptions. You will still have a black market.

    Let drugs be sold in government-run establishments. Give free needles as required.

    Whilst initially the NHS would see more people coming forward for treatment, this would be eventually outweighed by the reduction in HIV and the need to treat addicts who have overdosed because this batch was purer than the last.

    Having a controlled supply means having quality control. No longer would drugs be cut with noxious substances but would be of a consistent strength.

    Even if we tax drugs at 1000%, they would still be cheaper to the addict than those from illegal sources. That means fewer burglaries per fix.

    At a stroke, we would put drug dealers out of business. Sure, many would go on to other things, e.g. the skin trade. So let's legalise (and control) prostitution.

    If a demand is there, a market will spring up to satisfy that demand. If the market is illegal, you can't control it. If it's legal, you can.

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  11. There are two good videso on the subject (see links below). As a former drug and homicide prsoecutor in Chicago, I know first-hand that the drug war does nto work, and is at the hub of a dozen All-World crises.

    James E. Gierach, Chicago, IL USA
    LEAP Speaker

    http://www.leap.cc/cms/index.php?name=Content&pid=28

    http://idpi.us/compassion/resources/clergy-dvd

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  12. I think one of the major arguments against legalising drugs is that I'd bet my bottom dollar any such legislation would be stunning in its flawed shonkyness, and would inevitably make the whole mess worse still.

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  13. The only choice we have as a society is to have drugs on the street with violence, or drugs on the street without violence. As with alcohol, legalizing drugs will take the violence out of the trade in drugs. It won't stop addiction or make the world a warm and fuzzy place. Only the addicts themselves can do that. It will stop the Al Capones from shooting up the streets and killing uninvolved people (your son/daughter). The legalization of alcohol didn't make the mess worse. It made it immensely better. History and common sense are on the legalization side. Fear and loathing and the inability to think have killed enough innocent bystanders.
    Dennis Young
    LEAP
    Calgary

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  14. I have long been a supporter of the argument for the legalisation of drugs & have posted several times about it in the last few years on my blog.

    It's often difficult to advance the debate when the most in depth reply you often get is 'well if you legalise drugs, you might as well legalise theft, burglary or rape' which is to completely miss the point.

    If you're interested Insp Hobbes & David, you can see my thoughts at http://200weeks.police999.com/archives/493

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  15. The problem with legalisation is normalisation, IMHO.

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  16. Blue Eyes, it's already normal and has been for thousands of years. Drugs were legal once and were far less of a problem, but governments decided that moralizing was a government function as if there weren't plenty of religions around covering it quite nicely. At that point control of drugs was simply handed over to criminals and has remained there ever since. I suspect the criminal gangs would be in no hurry for legalization and the destruction of the black market that pays them so well.

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  17. An interesting post and thread - thank you. The case for legalisation strikes me as an absolute no brainer and remians a source of perpetual frustration that politicians around the world cannot grasp the vast net benefits to society that would result from legalisation/medicalisation.

    Apart from the sheer enormity of the task, it strikes me that there are two key objections to legalisation. I shall ignore the moral aspects of drug use.

    1. The first objection is that the ready legal availability of drugs will increase the amount of drug taking and consequent harm to individual users. While I by no means believe that legalisation would immediately send the entire population down to Boots to start injecting smack, it would be naive to think that legalisation wouldn't increase the rate of drug-taking within society. There are varoius mitigating actions that could be taken, such as limiting the amount of THC in marijuana, controlling the quality of refined drugs, providing addiction treatment, harm reduction strategies, prohibiting the advertising or marketing of drugs, increased detection of driving under the influence etc. Despite all of this, it is probably fair to say that the total number of addicts lives impacted by drugs will rise.

    However the bottom line is that currently drug taking impacts everyone in society, from the addict, through the tax payer to Mrs Miggins who has just had her house done over by an addict. Legalisation directs all the harm to where it belongs - the user.

    2. The second problem is one of globalisation. If the UK were to legalise unilaterally, not only would we be in breach of our treaty obligations, but we would be a destination for every smack head in the world, which is far from ideal.

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  18. What I want to know about this hypothetical "regulated" scheme you have in mind is how someone who has not yet tried drugs would be treated. Let's take an 18 year old university student, for example. Would that dope-virgin be able to pop down to the drug store and buy a bag of weed or some pre-rolled joints? Would there be a range of cannabis products? How would it work in practice?

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  19. Blue Eyes

    I think that you would have to split the issue into medicalised and legalised drugs. Dope, acid, ecstacy and probably cocaine are not highly addictive, nor are they particularly noxious, when compared to nicotine or alcohol for example. I would organise it so that these were for sale, probably from pharmacies and taxed so that their price points were just below where they are now, although for a far superior product.

    Heroin and highly addictive drugs are a different story. There is no point in taxing these because the whole point of this exercise is to prevent acquisitive crime to fund drug purchases. You would have to declare yourself a heroin addict and be prescribed heroin for injection under supervision.

    Crack I can't work out - presumably you could make crack from legal coke - yet is highly addictive and harmful.

    Zac Smith

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  20. Apparently heroin is actually quite easy to get off - a few days of cold turkey. Compare with alcohol which if you are truly addicted it can be fatal to go cold turkey. I think MP9000 hits the nail on the head: even if there were no "recreational" drugs available the same people would still be troublemakers.

    Zac you haven't answered my question. Where would I go if I wanted to try heroin or crack or acid or alcohol for the first time?

    Also Zac you say that dope is not noxious. I have seen people literally go mad through cannabis use. Hardly harmless.

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  21. Blue Eyes - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition doesn't take an official position on what regulatory scheme should be imposed. That is for local, state and national governments to decide. We only point out that prohibition is an expensive and dismal failure.

    That said, if you are interested in possible regulatory programs, lots of smart people have been working on various options. A good place to start reading is the Drug and Drug Policy bibliography maintained by the DPA:

    http://www.drugpolicy.org/library/bibliography/policy/index.cfm

    (By the way, I certainly agree with you that marijuana is not a benign substance.)

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  22. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask what your specific proposals are if you are asking for quite a big leap from prohibition to legalisation. Are you seriously saying "we want to change the law, but we aren't sure what to?". I don't think many people would vote for that policy. Sorry.

    I want to know quite a simple thing which is how would you try and persuade people not to screw up their lives? It's one thing to try and mitigate the harm caused by existing addicts but how does legalisation prevent new people from becoming addicted?

    Your assertion that prohibition has failed is interesting. In the UK we do not have tough punishments for possession of drugs. I suspect that a real zero tolerance approach - with tough policing and tough sentences - would do a great deal more for reducing drug use than legalisation would.

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  23. I've wondered about this topic myself, particularly the aspect that addresses the financial losses for drug cartels.
    As far as I know no ones in that line of work for the personal gratification that it brings, but rather for enormous financial gain. I'm all for hitting them in the pocket book and using the legalized gains from drug sales to profit the countries coffers.

    I have to wonder about the administering such a massive undertaking though, big job.

    The way the war on drugs is going right now, despite the best efforts of law-enforcement, just isn't working at all.

    Interesting post, thanks for the insight.

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  24. Zac Smith

    The major costs of drugs come about through their illegality. Medical morphine costs the NHS 28p per dose. Accepting that an addict may need 10 times that dose, you are still looking at £2.80. With 200% tax, that's £8.40.

    How much stuff will you have to nick for £8.40?

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  25. Are you all stark raving bonkers!? Our society is in enough of a mess because of this type of liberalisation.

    Drugs are a serious threat to the entire social fabric of our society. Tacit approval through legalisation will encourage use and engender the notion that drugs are an acceptable part of society.

    The article is naive to say the least and focuses on the outdated idea that prohibition didn't work so legalise drugs and all will be well.

    I see nothing in the article about how this will work in practice. What do you mean by legalisation? You seem to be saying you want to control it like alcohol. Has anyone thought about alcohol consumption in this country? If we had a mature attitude to it I could understand the argument slightly better. The fact is we have a culture of huge sections of the population, particularly the young, going out and getting completely bladdered. Many young people under the age of 18 spend their evenings and weekends in drunken oblivion. Are you seriously suggesting drugs will be any different?

    This notion I read that the State will sell drugs and undercut the dealers. You will just create a price war. The best you can hope is that the dealers will move on to other criminal activity such s prostitution and people trafficking.

    Most importantly, how will this effect crime and society? We will create thousands of new Class A addicts who lose their jobs, doss around in their drug induced oblivion but still have to go out thieving to buy their drugs from the State.

    A better way of tackling crime syndicates, who are nearly all involved in drugs, is to take their money from them. We need to stop pussyfooting around and introduce legislation to remove all wealth from criminals. We already have legislation that allows us to do this but only on conviction. We know who the drug dealers and criminal barons are. Based on intelligence they should be put before judges and made to account for their money. If they cannot, take it away.

    Probably too right wing for some of the commentators on here. I'm off for a spliff. I need to calm down.

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  26. @Latest anonymous:

    "This notion I read that the State will sell drugs and undercut the dealers. You will just create a price war."

    I am talking about prescribing heroin (probably as near as free as if practical). If you can get near free heroin, refined by Glaxosmithkline and quality asssured by Boots, why would you possibly buy it on the street and who would sell it?

    "We will create thousands of new Class A addicts who lose their jobs, doss around in their drug induced oblivion but still have to go out thieving to buy their drugs from the State."

    I think that you are probably right - it will be a few thousand, rather than a few hundred thousand. It's not like you or your missus are about to head off down the chemists and start mainlining the second legalisation occurs. Thieving - see above.

    "Based on intelligence they should be put before judges and made to account for their money."

    You say you are too right wing! You sound like a raving communist. Are you seriously suggesting that the government ought to have the power to take away a citizen's property without conviction. This government? That's not even the thin end of the wedge, that's half way down the wedge.

    @Blueeyes

    "Your assertion that prohibition has failed is interesting. In the UK we do not have tough punishments for possession of drugs. I suspect that a real zero tolerance approach - with tough policing and tough sentences - would do a great deal more for reducing drug use than legalisation would."

    How severe?

    25 years for a third count of possession?

    Tried in Texas - doesn't work?

    Death for dealing?

    Tried in the Far East, Iran, Saudi - doesn't work.

    What exactly are you proposing if these aren't severe enough?

    On your question about first time use - Heroin - you have to get yourself registered as an addict (it would make sense if it came with a battery of counter-drugs advice but I bet the government of the day would cut that funding).

    Recreational drugs - available on demand.

    Crack - Don't know - I don't know enough about why people take it, how it' smade or its economics.

    As to my assertation that dope isn't noxoius - I said that it isn't particularly noxious, especially compared to alcohol. (tens of deaths a year vs thousands) I think that I agree with you on its psychological effects - certainly I have seen a few casualties. Apparently there isn't any evidence that dope causes schizophrenia, rather than borderline schizophrenics take dope - but I am sceptical.

    Regardless, regulating dope's THC content would help. The bottom line, as I said before, is that the illegality of drugs causes harm to
    societly as a whole, but legalisation transfers that harm entirely to the individual - which sounds to me like a much better deal.

    Zac Smith

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  27. Far East

    How many heroin addicts are there in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand?

    Register yourself as an addict

    So if you want to try something it is effectively impossible unless you are already an addict. So if you want to try something for the first time you have to buy it from an illegal dealer?

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  28. Interesting points, thanks. I'm still not convinced that legalization will solve a critical mass of the problems it sets out to solve, however.

    While drugs like morphine are cheap, others like cocaine will still be obtained through the drug cartels, right? Or will each country go into the business of growing and manufacturing blow? Will cartels really close shop, declare defeat and voluntarily go away?

    On the consumption end, I see no reason why the streets will grow more safe unless there is a vast, taxpayer-subsidized open drug markets in which addicts and users can simply receive any amount of any drug. Legalization alone will not end drug-related crime, and any plan that limits certain drugs or quantities will do nothing to stop illegal trade. Meanwhile, even a small increase in the number of users may create a "tipping point" scenario in many neighborhoods. One thing is demonstrably true: if the drugs are inexpensive, more people, especially youth, will obtain them -- this goes for alcohol and there is no reason to believe it will not apply to legalized drugs.

    Finally, many drug users attribute their sobriety to a stint in jail and the threat of repeated arrest.

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  29. I've kept reasonably quiet throughout this debate. In fact, I've been reading through the links Officer Bratzer provided, as well as the one-stop-shop of complete information provided by 200 Weeks. Not only have I been reading, but I've been thinking. It's difficult as a police officer to agree with the legalisation and regulation of drugs. Why? It's because we see the evil ruination that it has upon addicts. Not only that, but those who are the real dealers, the Mister Bigs, are extremely difficult to bring to justice. Add to this the consequential victims, the ones who have their property stolen to fund habits, and it seems difficult to say to all of them that what LEAP proposes is the way forward. However, after nigh on 20 years of reading philosophy, I've fallen foul of the Platonic adage I swore I never would - 'an expert is someone who knows nothing at all.'

    What I mean by this is, just because as police officers or MOPs we see the full impact that drugs misuse has on the wider community, not only on the user themself - and because we know the law inside and out regarding drugs - we can sometimes become blind to the alternatives. Just because the law and societal opinions have been the same throughout the lives of almost all of us, it doesn't mean it's right. It doesn't mean the law was devised because it works. Sometimes it's wrong. I can point to many examples, as I am sure many of you can. Think about it this way - if drugs WERE legalised and regulated, the Mister Bigs would suffer - the ones who deserve to suffer. Prostitution, a drug-reliant trade, I'm guessing would halve at the very least, as would most ascquisitive crime. You can't get away from the fact that the majority of acquisitive crime is committed by habitual drug users. Yes, there are issues around the practicalities of this proposal, but they're not unachievable in the overall aim.

    Despite the hype, the heroin users I've encountered throughout my career, who look as though they are always about to die, never actually bloody do. Their sores and blisters are caused by needle-sharing and impure heroin. I've dealt with someone who suffered psychosis from excessive cannabis use - but only once in all my career. I've never had to arrest anyone under the influence of any of the above, and which had been directly attributable to violent crime. Never someone who has used ecstasy, cocaine or amphetamines. Compare this to what I have dealt with due to the misuse of alchohol and, well, it's incomparable.

    So, I'll subscribe to LEAP. Sometimes what appears radical actually isn't. It's a conservative reaction to restore order to that similar to times gone past. My only hope is that if we ever did take on the experiment, the current government would be long gone, because otherwise they'd screw it up. As with everything else.

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  30. How many heroin addicts are there in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand?

    250,000 in Thailand according to the Thai government. That's about the same as the UK prevalence, in a country with about the same population as the UK.

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  31. Interesting article and debate.

    Recently, the newly appointed drug czar (appointed by President Obama a liberal democratic) recently spoke against any use of marijuana. I think this says alot about the possibility of changes in the drug laws here--it is going to happen anytime soon.

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  32. Interesting post - as a Canadian officer I have first hand knowledge of our drug laws and the inefficiencies inside the system.

    Drugs are such a huge problem it is hard to know where to start.

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  33. First time drug users do not appear to be put off by the fact that drugs are illegal, or by any of the health warnings that are published. It would be helpful if there was a study of the circumstances of first time drug use to see if there are any linking factors, such as age, race or location. And an answer for the eternal question, - is cannabis a 'gateway drug'?
    It is too late for the existing addicts and recreational users, but if the new users could be prevented or just delayed from starting, the problem would be lessened.
    Legalisation could work as long as it was backed up by strict controls on the supply of the drugs, but that would be difficult in the cae of 'grow your own' cannabis.

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  34. Interesting comments that are usually missing wyhen the subject is brought up on tv, a lot of thought material there. I agree that there is a lot to wade through before drugs could become legal but at the moment nothing sussesful seems to be happening other than everyone but the drugs cartels loosing out.

    You say that the drugs cartels would move onto other markets but l think they are a lot more finite than drugs.
    However there is a lot of countries in the world for cartels to operate in. After all just because one country tried to go legal doesn't mean others will.

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  35. If drugs were legallised, we could spend money on treating addicts and dissuading people from starting with drugs. That money would come from the reduction in the number of prisoners.

    The police could then spend their time doing something that makes a real difference, rather than chasing their tails to come up with the occaisonal great success.

    If drug bosses wish to move into other countries, then so be it. They too have the power to legalise drugs, but it's their choice. At least we wouldn't have the main dealers here.

    If all went to plan, perhaps we could even improve living conditions (and I'm not just talking about material things) for most of our citizens. I firmly believe that much of the current drug taking, particularly Class A, is a form of self-medication. People are depressed but don't realise it; they just know something is wrong. At first the drugs DO work.

    Until less than a century ago, we had no laws about possession & use of drugs. We were pushed into it by the USA, who had recently enacted their own drug laws. Never have two great nations done something so stupid (and yes, I include the Iraq war in that). We now have more addicts than we had then.

    Incidentally, the LEAP clip made a very good point. Take control of drugs and we decide the minimum age at which people are allowed to buy them. Leave it to the illegal suppliers, and they decide.

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  36. Parabéns por ser policial um serviço muito gratificante abraços e fique com Deus.

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  37. Why not build up the drugs seizures made at the ports etc, make them excessively pure, and insert them back into the black market. That'll eliminate the users. While the dealers are trying to source new users, nuke the poppy fields in Afghanistan that the CIA so helpfully set up whilst trying to destabilize their government and the other known drug-producing countries, and Bob's your uncle, end of the drug problem bar a bit of open warfare between the Army and any remaining drug dealers.

    Oh, and a bit of fallout from the nukes. ;)

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  38. Sorry for the anonymous, I don't have a blog.

    But, there's interesting things happening in Portugal where they decriminalised all drugs, including Heroin, Cocaine etc in 2001

    More here on Cato Institute, white paper dated April 2 2009 if the link doesn't work.
    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080

    There are more items to read if you search for Drug decriminalization Portugal.

    Short result is that they've found drug use has decreased since 2001, which was apparently a surprising result.

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  39. What is it that draws you to join plod? A character defect that gives you the ability to tell good from bad? As for free speech since 1977 I have only ever seen you attempt to criminalise it. New Scotland Yard delenda est.

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  40. The drug cartels would not only push into other areas of business such as prostitution and people trafficking. There would also be an incentive for them to develope new drugs with higher effects to tempt users. They are doing this already without needing the incentive. It will be worse.

    MarkUK. I think it is a bit naive to suggest that if we legalise drugs we control the age at which young people can get hold of them. It doesn't work at all with alcohol, does it? And it actually gives the illegal dealers an incentive to target those under age.

    Wesley Groves. I don't know what stone you have just crawled out from to spout your prujudices. I work with someone like you. His nickname is thrush. Go away you irritating c**t.

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  41. Anon@10/8/09 : Thanks for the cato.org / portugal link.

    If legalisation is ever attempted by a western state then the Portugese decriminalisation method is clearly a low risk way forward.

    It gives step by step control of the process. Allows benefits to be seen and evaluated. And if it turns out that the English, say, don't respond like Portugese people, then it can always be gently rolled back (recriminalise selected drugs etc). The results however could well be comparable - the motivations of a portugese smackhead are quite probably indistinguishable from the english variety.

    Perhaps one reason to hope it will be attempted soon is the apocalyptic state of uk government finances.

    £175Bn has been invented out of thin air by the BoE so far this year. Almost all £175bn has immediately been given to government to (20%) fund its 2009-10 running costs. Next year the taxbase is going to be just as weak and the need for borrowing even larger with the interest payments.

    The uk police &prisons &probation service total @£16bn pa.

    Ring fencing the NHS@£110bn pa just means the pressure becomes even more overwhelming to change how the rest works. Traditionally capex is the first to go, so goodbye to new/replacement prisons (and new stasi databases).

    But these total only a couple of £billion pa.

    Chickenfeed.

    The debt numbers look so humongous that a LOT more is going too. How long before somebody with a big red pen questions the usage of ~60% of the CJS for drug related "crime"?

    Bring it on.

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  42. excellent article and interesting post.
    thinking chopper - massive respect for joining LEAP, it takes courage I am guessing

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  43. MDMA (Ecstasy) is NOT "so dangerous". How you take it may be, but then that is the same for Paracetamol. That is not banned.

    Sorry - you are wrong on that one, though thanks for turning up and stating your views. Policemen over here are not allowed to do so until they retire, and then they are either ignored or smeared.

    On the opiates, why oh why oh why are we not paying the Afghanis a living wage to produce them. There has been a worldwide shortage of medical morphine for some years, and the Taliban could be levered out by providing regular, good income for poppy growers.

    Anyway, you are definitely heading on the right direction. Sadly our leaders and "war" are an utter cock-up

    Iraq. Illegal
    Afghanistan, Unwinnable
    Drugs. Lost decades ago.

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  44. There is or was a blog called Bent Society,ran by criminologists.Its gone private now.There were some good articles on drug issues.I remember reading that Michael Howerd killed an effective experiment back in the early 80s in Liverpool.They gave heroin addicts free smack and clean needles,while encouraging them to move onto methodone and eventually weening them off it altogether.Drug crime dropped dramatically.Howerd closed it down,and the addicts went back to buglary to pay for the brickdust they needed to stick in ther arms.The people running the scheme kept tabs on the addicts they were treating for another couple of years.Hopefully someone reading this will know what I'm blethering on about and supply you with the relevent references.
    I would also point you at the work of Catherine Austin Fitts.Read her articles on Narco-Dollars.
    Our governments are involved in the drug trade.The same lear jets used to fly "terrorists" to torture chambers have been busted with cargos of drugs.
    Similar stories can be read at madcowproductions.com.Dan Hopsicker investigated the 9/11 hijackers and their links with the CIA and the drug world.
    Michael Ruppert was a police officer who discovered the CIA was importing drugs into Los Angeles.
    I think the WOD is a mess because there is a conflict of covert interests.You are busting street dealers while our troops guard afghan poppy farmers.

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  45. It is a very informative post you got there,about Scottish Trust Deeds. I am sure it will help a lot of people who are seeking help on deeds. Looking forward to see more like these from you.

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  46. Survival of the fittest is how the natural world keeps balance, we have taken that balance away, instead we try to save everyone, good or bad, healthy or sick, We can't sustain this forever, Some drugs kill yes, thats their choice to take them tho, give a man £5 and he will feed his habit for an hour, give him 20 grams and he will put himself and us out of his misery! War and drugs are our 2 best weapons to irradicate the stupid and ignorant, letting the rest of us live in relative peace, ok there are some casualties along the way but we shouldn't pay for other peoples stupidity, I can grow my own weed quite nicely, its my choice i do it in my own home, and i smoke it with friends and family, Where is the harm in that, I would happily pay the Government for a licence to grow, i don't see it as a gateway drug, there are many drugs we all do before even considering illegal ones, Alcohol, Caffine, Nicotine are all addictive substances, the truth is anything that gives you pleasure can become addictive, Even sugar should be considered a drug, it has no good effects on us, it causes death by Diabetes yet it is socially acceptable, 50mg of nicotine, or 20 shots of alcohol are enough to kill the average person but i have never heard of someone over dosing on THC, Education is what society needs, not telling what we should or shouldn't be doing, My parents were "drug dealers" they sold hash and they educated me on drugs, i will never ever touch heroine, crack or anything like that, not because i don't think they could be fun, but because i know the addictiveness and impact they have on the people around you. I have learnt by my parents mistakes, they used to inject heroine before i was born, they got off of it and made sure me and my sister were never stupid enough to choose that route, they never forced anything on us but they would never stop us trying something if that was what we really wanted but the education we recieved stopped us going any further than light recreational use of drugs that are safe in small doses, i would rather be a lazy toker than a violent drunk or nasty ass crack head!

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  47. Glad to read that you see your job as a vocation. Every single police person i ask this question of tells me they do it for the money, which is wrong. They then become slaves that will do anything, even if it is wrong just for the money out of the taxpayers pockets they are here to protect.

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  48. Tell me mr thinkingpoliceman. This is a true case. I have had a online stalker daily for over five years. He was arrested twice in 2008, but he re-victimized me from july 2009 onwards. I reported it to the police again and provided them so far with over 60 pieces of evidential proof that he has broken the 1997 protection from harassment act and the 1998 malicious communications act along with a whole host of other crimes.

    The police have told me for a year, we are still investigating despite my finding another of his victims who once lived with him who had been looking for me. Because the police have been dragging their feet we took civil action resulting in a 2 day civil trial of him in may, now adjourned till later this year for a further 3 day trial in view of the further evidence coming our way in excess of over 120 pieces, plus more witnesses.

    In january we came across communications between the one on trial and an officer who arrested him two years ago, these are recent communications where he is asking the officer to help him get information on me, and the officer indicates in the correspondence he will see what he can do. Tell me, is that right, no way is it.

    Anyhow, at the may trial we got four interim court orders on him, two for non harassment on the internet which are legal precedents, and two non-molestation orders. He broke them both recently four times, you can see a little on that subject here :-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFP81fG-4bk

    So, tell me, is it right for the police after he breached the order and phoned me recently to tell me he is going to kill me for them to let him out on unconditional bail when he went straight on to breach the orders three more times and he is still walking free, where is the justice and protection for me in that.

    Our star witness who knows him and is a victim also, gave the police a 7 page statement detailing how this man is a drug dealer in cocaine, amphetamines and viagra, gets police uniforms to sell from a police contact, deals in dvd;s of animal with human sex, pregnant women, snuff movies, and child sex, and has a tazer and police warrant badge. They have known this for over three months yet they did not arrest him.

    What is your opinion.

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