Letter to the Times published 25 June 2013

Dear Sir,

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.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Lloyd

Tom Lloyd QPM MA (Oxon)
International Drug Policy Adviser
Chief Constable, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, 2002-5


About tomclloyd

International Drug Policy Adviser and former UK Chief Constable
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3 Responses to Letter to the Times published 25 June 2013

  1. Gart Valenc says:

    Well said, tomclloyd. There are no doubts the War on Drugs has been an extremely good thing for the criminals who control the drugs market. But we also ought to ask: whom else has the War on Drugs been good for? Well, it has been a good war for a whole host of parties that feed off and are fed by the industry, the criminal industry, prohibition really is: financial services, military industrial complex, enforcement agencies, security service providers, corrupt politicians, captains of industry…you name it!

    Take the US, the largest consumer in the world and the most belligerent war on drugs warrior. It has used the War on Drugs to both blackmail and entice drug producing and transit countries to follow US foreign policies, amongst them, its drugs policies.

    For instance, it has used the War on Drugs as a securitisation tool, i.e. as a decoy to pursue its national security policies in drug producing and transit countries. The Plan Colombia is a perfect case in point.

    Certification is another tool the US has keenly used to force producing and transit countries to follow US policies. In order to ‘certify’ (or ‘decertify’) a given country, the US State Department evaluates on a regular basis the level of cooperation shown by that country with the US anti-drugs policies, and depending on how strong and committed that cooperation has been in its eyes, the US gives or denies its “seal of approval”.

    Needles to say, decertification is no children’s play. . On the one hand, it can have, and does have, serious implications insofar as the the credibility of the country concerned among the international community. On the other, it may have, and does have, dire economic and financial repercussions as well, including withdrawal of US “aid”, difficulties to obtain loans from international lending institutions and trade sanctions.

    And then, there is the icing on the cake: the so-called “aid programmes” such as the Mérida Initiative and the Plan Colombia, for instance.

    For starters, to call them “aid” is a misnomer, a seriously misleading one, for it leads people to believe that they are some sort of donation or gift, but they are not. They are, for all intents and purposes, something akin to “lending money to oneself”.

    Even though they are expressed as X or Y amount of dollars, they are actually the equivalent in dollars of the goods and services provided by the “donor”, in this case the US—usually helicopters, guns, security companies services, advisers, and so on and so forth.

    Estimates vary according to the specific destinations and objectives of any given “assistance program”, but in many cases the percentage remaining in the US could be as high as 90%.

    To add insult to injury, the counterpart, in this case Mexico or Colombia, is usually required to match, although not necessarily dollar to dollar, what it has received from the “donor”.

    It is estimated, for instance, that Mexico spends 13 US dollars for every dollar the US “gives” to Mexico to enforce the War on Drugs. And guess what, the lion’s share of this expenditure is not spent in goods and services provided by Mexican or Colombian companies, but by companies overseas, mainly US suppliers.

    One thing is for sure, US “aid” is not a gift to the countries concerned; rather, it is an economic mechanism to prop up industries and services in the US. As history has shown us again and again, every war has losers…but it has winners, too. And judging by what has happened over the last 50 years, I would say the biggest winners have been those who feed off and are fed by the war on drugs.

    Gart Valenc
    Twitter: @gartvalenc

  2. stevester8308 says:

    Im unsure if Tom is still in hos job but judging by the letter he wrote one would assume he is not . Politicians just have to look at the facts and evidence to base drugs laws on but instead they choose to ignore it . This just proves that any politician that ignores vital evidence where drugs or any other subject is concerned is not fot for office and should resign so another politician has the chance and courage to correct their mistakes and not make it a taboo subject to talk about for fear of losing votes . Politicians today choose to put votes before serious issues like leaving drugs in criminal hands where your children are not protected at all and it should make the general public notice how cowardly these politicians really are .

  3. Tim Chiswell says:

    There is no substance known to man whose safety is improved by having its production and distribution handed over to criminals rather than legitimate businesses answerable to legal and regulatory standards.
    The USA proved this conclusively with their lengthy and horribly unsuccessful attempt to prohibit the production and sale of alcohol in the 1920s and 1930s. Its simply mind-boggling that neither they, nor most other governments, have actually learned the lesson of this experiment, and continue to repeat its gravest errors with the prohibition of other substances.
    That prohibition of a substance does NOT ‘work’ (by whatever definition of ‘work’ one chooses) has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt in real-life scenarios. Yet most major governments continue to pursue this as the basis of their policy on cannabis.
    What SHOULD be criminal is for a politician to pursue a policy that they themselves know, or reasonably should know, to be entirely counter-prodiutive and deterimental to public health simply because of its popularity and its chance of winning them votes.

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