A report launched on Thursday by the UK Drug Policy Commission urges drug enforcement agencies to target the most harmful dealers, areas and activities, rather than simply aiming to reduce total supply.
The report must be praised for recognising the central flaw in the current drugs strategy – that “more enforcement generally does not lead to less availability because established drug markets are too resilient and adaptable." As long as demand exists, suppliers will find a way to get drugs to customers.
Crucially, the report also recognises that much of the harm associated with drugs is caused by the activities of suppliers – gang warfare, sexual exploitation, targeting of children, and dangerously impure drugs. Quite obviously, it is only because of the illegality of drugs that their supply is characterised by such criminal behaviour.
These insights are useful, but the report’s recommendations do not go far enough. Targeting the most harmful activities of drug criminals may alleviate the damage, but it will not solve the problem. Only by recognising that this is a war we cannot win, and by removing the drugs trade from the hands of gangsters can we really make a difference. Regulated legalisation is the best solution.
And as Tom pointed out in his post of yesterday, legalisation would also save a lot of money. Even allowing for the societal cost of heroin and crack use (potentially) doubling, the total saving would be at least £5bn.