Don't Panic

Gangs, drugs and the law. Is legalisation the endgame?

Drugs gangs have created lawless 'no-go areas' in British cities similar to those in Mexico, a report from the International Narcotics Control Board suggests.

The report’s author, Professor Hamid Ghodse, described how “drug traffickers, organised crime, drug users, they take over”. He also cited the celebrity use of drugs as helping to "normalise use" in society.

Prof Ghodse’s claims were met with howls of protest from community leaders, as well as providing further support for those who claim radical reform of drugs law is the next, logical step.

The statistics are revealing. An estimate by the UK Home Office placed the value of the illicit drug market at between £4billion and £6billion a year, while the cost to the taxpayer of dealing with drug use is substantially more.

When taking into account crime, social security and bringing drugs offenders to justice, the figure rises to over £10billion.

This is grist to the mill for those arguing the only answer is decriminalisation.

Research by the charity Drugscope found that around one in six people have used illicit drugs in their lifetime.

Furthermore, they estimate 13.9% of those aged 16 to 59 have used a Class A drug at least once in their lifetime, 3.4% used at least one Class A drug last year and 1.6% in the last month.

[Related link: UK cities hit back at UN claims over 'no-go areas controlled by drug gangs']

But behind the economic arguments, there is a human cost which is far too often overlooked, say those against any change in the law. Soft drugs lead to hard drugs, they argue, with all drugs having a lasting and sometimes devastating effect. Just look at the slew of tragic deaths, they say, from high-profile celebrities to those living on the street.

But Professor David Nutt, a leading expert on the effect of drugs and a critic of the current drugs law, has cited horse riding as being more dangerous than casual ecstasy use.

In an editorial for the Journal of Psychopharmacology, he stated that horse riding resulted in one serious adverse event 'every 350 exposures', while taking ecstasy resulted in one 'serious adverse event' every 10,000 exposures.

So would these ‘no-go zones’ afflicted by the drug trade be improved by a more libertarian approach to drugs? By removing the black market for illegal narcotics, would we see a decrease in addiction?

Drugs affect all our lives be it directly or indirectly. For any change to take place there needs to be an open and honest debate by society's leaders. Over to you, Westminster.