It is very helpful to have a discussion about the relative benefits and harms caused by substance use and abuse, such as the current debate about cannabis, but this misses an important point. The illicit drugs market is controlled by criminals, not governments, there is no regulation of strength or quality and a huge financial incentive to target children. All drugs are more dangerous and accessible when their production and supply is in the hands of criminals.
The experience of the last 40 years reveals that prohibition is not only ineffective at restricting access and use but it is also hugely costly, counter-productive and harmful. The so-called war on drugs has, in fact, been a war on people.
We have to decide whether legitimate authorities are going to be in charge, controlling access and regulating quality, or criminals are left to target successive generations in pursuit of almost unlimited profits.
The public mood is changing and politicians should now have the confidence to discuss this pressing issue openly and equipped with facts not emotion.
Tom Lloyd QPM MA (Oxon)
International Drug Policy Adviser
Chief Constable, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, 2002-5