Tough on drugs is weak on results

| 30/10/2014

(CNS): Punitive drug law enforcement is failing and there is no evidence that harsh sentencing curbs illegal use of drugs, according to a new UK government study. The first evidence-based study ends 40 years of political rhetoric that only harsher penalties can tackle the problems caused by heroin, cannabis and cocaine and also points to the success of Portugal’s decriminalization. Examining international drug laws, the groundbreaking research undertaken by the Home Office documents the success of a health-led approach in Portugal, combining decriminalisation with other policies, and shows reductions in all types of drug use.

The report is signed off by the home secretary, Theresa May, and the Liberal Democrat minister Norman Baker, who accused the Conservatives of "suppressing" the findings for months according to the BBC. He told the Guardian newspaper in the UK that “banging people up and increasing sentences does not stop drug use”.

Baker said the last 40 years had seen a drugs debate in Britain based on the “lazy assumption in the rightwing press that if you have harsher penalties it will reduce drug use, but there is no evidence for that at all”. He added: “If anything the evidence is to the contrary.”

Baker stated that treating drug use as a health matter would be more effective, "rather than presuming locking people up is the answer".

Factors such as a more risk-averse generation of young people, who suffered fewer alcohol problems and were healthier, contributed to the general downward trend in drug use.

The Home Office international research paper on the use of illegal drugs, which redeems a Liberal Democrat 2010 election pledge for a royal commission to examine the alternatives to the current drug laws, also leaves the door open on the legalisation experiments in the American states of Washington and Colorado, and in Uruguay

Danny Kushlik, from Transform drugs charity, which campaigns for drug legalisation, said the report represented a landmark in British drugs policy since the introduction of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.

“This is a historic moment in the development of UK drug policy. For the first time in over 40 years the Home Office has admitted that enforcing tough drug laws doesn’t necessarily reduce levels of drug use,” Kushlik told the Guardian. “It has also acknowledged that decriminalising the possession of drugs doesn’t increase levels of use. Even more, the department in charge of drugs prohibition says it will take account of the experiments in the legal regulation of cannabis in Washington, Colorado and Uruguay.

Despite the findings, a Home Office spokesperson said: “This government has absolutely no intention of decriminalising drugs. Our drugs strategy is working and there is a long-term downward trend in drug misuse in the UK. It is right that we look at drugs policies in other countries and today’s report summarises a number of these international approaches.”

Earlier this year the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, pledged to abolish prison sentences for the possession of drugs for personal use – including class-A substances such as heroin and cocaine. He urged David Cameron to look at issues such as decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Well as a caynanian, if this is made legal or decriminalized I am out of here without return. I will not be able to have my children play outside because all of a sudden my neighbours who probably do some form of illegal drug will do it openly. I do not want the smell around my children. I do not want them to see the needles, the snorting, the crack pipe etc.  While adults can choose to do what they want. Openly being able to smoke in your backyard affects the delicate brains of my very young children.  

    At least if I leave the island, to a colder country they will do their business inside running from the cold. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow! Go ahead and leave fool. More turtle meat for me to eat when the munchies hit!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Using drugs and depending on drugs shows weakness of character and emotional weakness. It doesn't matter whether the person is actually fully functioning and 'has a good job'. What remains is at the core there is something inherently wrong with the individuals  perception of self. If one really has to fog the mind to feel good. Then what is wrong with the reality of the persons life that they cannot face it head on? 

    Legalizing it shows our children. Let's take the easy way out. If you feel bad. Let's fix it with a pill, joint, needle, snort etc. Is it no longer fashionable to want to improve oneself anymore? 

    Maybe this is Darwin's way of removing the weak.  Allow the strong to survive and the drug dependent perish? Anything in excess is bad for you. Some things the quantity is less than others. 

    • Anonymous says:

      So you suppprt banning alcohol too?  And sugar?  And donuts?

    • Anonymous says:

      I have known people that do not do drugs, but are stiff, inflexible, can not handle changes easily, and are two steps away from a nervous breakdown. So they turn to religion, which has as its center piece a euphoric experience. To each his.her own. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    I've changed my tune. Allow legalization of drugs. We pay for these 'criminals' and house them in prison. If we allow them to use drugs freely then they will overdose and the public no longer pays  60k a year to sit in AC and watch tv all day in the prison. A natural population control. 

    However, the local crackhead numbers will increase and the frequency of my car and apt getting broken into will increase. I could prepare for their arrival with live wires and soaking my lawn. However, why not look into a proper mental health and drug facility? One where even international clients want to visit for a 'holiday detox' 

    It appears so many people turn to drugs, alcohol or whatever anti productive means to relax. Why not teach coping mechanisms in school. Have school counselors starting from the primary school level. Address the core issue. Once that is resolved then a need to check out of reality even if temporary is not necessary. 


  4. Anonymous says:

    Most people can intelligently look at the war on drugs and see that it has been counter-productive. Prohibition doesn't work. It never has and it never will. They prohibited alcohol in the 20's and it gave rise to organised crime. They did the same thing with narcotics and has given way to unprecented violence and blood-shed. Look at what Mexico and Colombia is going through with the Cartels.

    The policing of narcotics and other vice crimes (prostitution, gambling) is done in a unique way different from any other form of police work. In simplest terms, regular policing a crime is commited and the police use investigative procedures to thus solve the crime. No one calls the police to say "Hey, I just bought some crack" therefore the police have to go out and trick people into commiting the offence. Law enforcement can not protect people from themselves, that's why drug use is a HEALTH issue not a legal issue. Portugal got the message, I encourage anyone to look at the strides made by them since they decriminalized drugs and made it a health issue.

    I know the first reaction most people have when the topic of ending the War on Drugs comes up is that, drugs are dangerous and can be abused etc. Well the leading cause of death in the world today is heart disease, accounting for around 7 million deaths (according to WHO). Cheeseburgers are legal, yet they can be easily abused and they are (one could make the argument they're a drug in their own right). There's nothing stopping me from eating cheeseburgers every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But we know that would have a detrimental effect on my health. Obesity is a major problem in the world today, but nobody runs around saying "let's outlaw cheeseburgers and fastfood!". That would be ludicrous, instead health officials try to educate people on the benefits of a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. It's the same concept with narcotics. That's not to say I'm advocating people should use hard synthetic drugs, but we have to realize the reality that there will always be a demand for them and where there's a demand there will be a supplier. The solution is straight forward, make it a health issue. Regulate the market just as in the cases of legal narcotics, alcohol and tobacco.



  5. Anonymous says:

    Pothead commentators read "drugs" and automatically assumed the discussion was about herb – this article is about the legalization of ALL drugs, including the hardest class-A substances.  Crystal meth, Crack cocaine, and Heroin are not yet known to cure cancer.     

    • Slowpoke says:

      Actually, no. 

      I don't use drugs, but believe in evaluation, and science, and facts.

      The research from Portugal is very clear. 10+ years hasclearly demonstrated that decriminalization of all drugs, is far superior to the war on drugs.


  6. Anonymous says:

    whats wrong with a little weed

  7. SafetyFirstD.C. says:

    Legalize the weed, might as well make money off of it, tax it and cut out the dealers selling that "Reggie Bush" some of the worse weed I've  ever inhaled is sold on  island. Get the good grades from Colorado and sell it to the tourists too, theyd pay a high price for Caribbean  weed. Set up a dispensery  right out front of the terminal, so as they walk of the ship they can buy an 1/8, smoke that on the beach, get the munchies and spend on over priced food and tourist  souvenirs. Its a win win.


    It will also allow the locals not to be convicted of consumption of Marijuana, that has to be the stupidest conviction ever. If you don't  legalize it, at least decriminalize its use. Give the youth a chance, more die every year from DUI than a lil weed, if they want to smoke and fry their brain cells go ahead. They're  going to do it anyway,   aswell as breed multiple woman and neglect the kids, drive around with tints and no insurance. Why should i bave to suffer? I want to smoke a spliff after a hard days work in the privacy  of my home i should be allowed to, at least the CIG got the money and not my dealer. Wake up and smell the ganja smoke people, the world has changed and become liberal, these old testament  ways of life have to come to an end if this island wants to springboard into the 21st century. 

  8. Anonymous says:

    I know some of my hippochristian friends secretly use weed but shame it's name it in public. I'm well sure they'd be first on the band wagon if it put money in thier pockets directly or indirectly. However, I'd bet they wouldn't like to talk about that side of it, hummm…

  9. Anonyanmous says:

    Might as well legalize drugs because every other criminal activicity is happeningon island and everyone is turning a blind eye anyway.  This place is going, going, gone so to the last one roll up the carpet and turn out the lights.  In less than two years this place will be down the toilet if all continues as is. 

  10. Anonymous says:

    But what works and what wins votes are different things.  Sadly politicians are too scared to do what works because they know it might costs them votes.  And since doing the vote-winning option over the right thing is a speciality of the Premier, there is no point in even having a debate on the topic.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately it'll take our Cayman Islands another 50 years to even begin the discussions, much less look at the evidence objectively.


  12. Anonymous says:


  13. Anonyanmous says:

    Decriminalising drugs is not the answer either, those that have visited Holland know that first hand.

    • Anonymous says:

      Drugs have been around since the beginning of time, and they always will be, they will never ever go away.

      The war on drugs is the longest the world has ever seen and it will continue because as long as there is demand, there will always be a supply.

      And that is just a fact of life.

      • Anonymous says:

        There's no known anthropological refernce to cavemen freebasing cocaine or cooking meth – some of the highly refined class-A narcotics this article refers to.  Cave-dweller psychadelic options where limited to magic mushrooms/berries/bark/seeds/sap/leaves/venom, various psychadelic enemas, smoke huts, and ingesting small toxic animals.  Some of that stuff is still legal. 

    • Anonymous says:

      What was your issue in Holland. Most of the users were furiners

    • Say what?? says:

      Been there. Loved it. You're an idiot.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just wondering what you mean by this…. I lived in Holland for 4 years while doing my university degree before coming back to Cayman to live and as a country, they actually have one of the most successful societies that have dealt with decriminalisation. Crime is down, violent crime is down, the rate of diseases spread amongst users is way down. They have an incredibly low crime rate; in fact, some of their prisons have even been closed due to a lack of prisoners to fill them. Does Cayman have that same problem. Additionally, they have one of the lowest rates of mental health issues among teenagers in the world, so you tell me again how they don't manage decriminalisation properly?

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes the heroin parks there are brilliant! 

        Cayman has a different problem. The problem of the 'Cayman disease' aka inbreeding and those offspring trying to breed out of the gene pool. However the genetic mutations and mental illness prevails and passes down the generations. The majority of young 16-40 year old west bay males shows this problem is rampant as they turn to drugs for comfort. You can see them by their 'walk', posture and mannerisms. 

        Holland does not have that problem. They have tourists and a larger mass of people.  

    • Anonymous says:

      Rubbish! I have visited Holland and found it a beautiful place. And try to educate yourself on the objective facts about the low crime rate in Holland before you speak.

    • @ 13:08 says:

      You have obviously never been to Holland and therefore should not be offering advice on something of which you have know knowledge at all. 

    • Anonymous says:

      There is no country called Holland.  That is like calling America "Dakota".  Only people who have never been to the Netherlands would make such a stupid mistake.  From the ignorance of your comment, I suspect you are talking out your proverbial.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Legalize, tax, and control all drugs.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Legalize the stuff, tax it, empty the prisons (almost), create jobs, export, reduce crime and leave the gangs with nothing to make money on.

    Unfortunately the powerfull religious freaks control this country, so we will keep full prisons, increased crime and soon gangs will control area's based on color, and innocent people will be terrorized.


    • Anonymous says:

      So the plan is: Cayman should go it alone and legalize all our dark transhipment economies (running guns, ammo, money, cocaine, ganja, crack, meth, and wanted fugatives) and formally go to war with the western world and our regional neighbours?  Pray tell us, how do you think Cayman would fare in that scenario?  


      • Anon says:

        Way to overexaggerate. We're talking legalising cannabis, a drug that has notably less side effects than the alcohol that we consume ridiculous quantities of as a populace. No one's advocating to legalise the trade of weapons, synthetic narcotics, or human trafficking. Nor have the countries that have taken more pragmatic approaches against the illegal drug trade dissolved into the mess you describe.

        We keep following the US with their stupid policy and what do they have other than:

        -Deaths from cannabis: 0

        -Deaths from Illicit drug use: 17K

        -Deaths from alcohol: 25K+

        -Deaths from pharmaceuticals: 38K+

        -And more than 1 in 100 adults are in prison NOW

        That is despite the facts that the government's own research that incarceration for drug use and trade has no effect of any significance on the rehabilitation of the individual. They tend to return to drug abuse and crime- often times hardened by their time in jail with the few real hardened criminals.

        Just recently the Home Office admitted that punitive drug laws have FAILED to stop trade and abuse. It is merely expensive, time consuming and counterproductive.

        I wish I lived in a society that wanted to improve the circumstances that encourage people to abuse drugs such as boredom, loneliness, lack of opportunity and support rather than stubbornly advocate for solutions that do not work. The money could be used to improving education, providing alternative options of entertainment and socialisation, therapy, etc. 

        Legalise, tax, research and regulate it. Promote quality as different strains produce different effects, some positive and some negative.

        There are positives and negatives to everything, but what is a testament to greatness is the ability to utilise those benefits to your advantage and successfully mitigate the negative impacts. This is the same for everything and it is called being able to learn and adapt. The question is can we?

        • Anonymous says:

          This article is about the legalization of all drugs – including class-A drugs – that are considerably more personally damaging than alcohol.  Society will have to commune with these people and pay for them anyway.  In jail or hospital or morgue – take your pick.  

      • Anonymous says:

        Thats not plan. The plan is to legalize marijuana consumption and cultivation so that the police can focus on guns and other harder, more profitable, more destructive substances.

      • Anonymous says:

        "…formally go to war with the western world …"

        Hmmm, actually we could do really well.

        Remember "The Mouse That Roared", a great movie.