The war on drugs has failed and the UK should legalise - GP Taylor

GP Taylor, a writer and broadcaster from Yorkshire, argues the case for legalising drugs.

A cannabis plant. Picture: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images.

I have to admit that I am an ardent drug user. Each week I get my fix of a substance so powerful that it causes family breakdown and even death. Yet, my drug use is not a crime. I like millions of other people enjoy alcohol. As long as I don’t drive whilst under its influence or break the law then it is perfectly legal, even though it leads to many problems within society. More people are treated for the effects of alcohol than any other drug. Some say that if booze was invented today it would be regarded as a Class A substance. In the UK, according to NHS figures published by UKAT, 7.5million people show signs of alcohol dependence.

However, if I was to eat or smoke a leaf from a plant that some scientists say is less dangerous, then in theory I could be arrested and put in prison for up to five years. Even though 30 per cent of the population of England and Wales have smoked cannabis, it is still a Class B drug.

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Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder conducted a review of existing imaging data that looked at the effects of alcohol and marijuana, or cannabis, on the brain. Their findings linked alcohol consumption with long-term changes to the structure of white matter and grey matter in the brain. The use of marijuana, however, seemed to have no significant long-term effects on brain structure.

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When America prohibited alcohol, it drove drinking underground and into the hands of criminals. As a former police officer, I know the prohibition of drugs has done the same. Drugs are big business and I firmly believe that legalising all drugs would be the downfall of many criminal gangs.

Legalisation would also go a long way to making sure that the drugs people were taking are safe. Availability could be regulated and importantly taxed. Money raised from the sales tax of drugs could be used to treat those who have medical issues linked through drug misuse.

Individuals could be allowed to grow a limited number of plants for their own use. In some states in America people are allowed by law to grow up to six plants. Home cultivation would bring down reliance on drug dealers who would soon go out of business.

Legalisation would also free up the police to deal with organised crime. The ordinary drug user would no longer be a criminal and stigmatised for their recreational habits. The war on drugs has failed. Police forces do not have the officers to combat and arrest even the biggest dealers and distributors who are making millions each year. No matter what the police do, it does not stop the supply of drugs in this country. If drugs such as cannabis were legalised, it would be an effective way of not only controlling crime but regulating the market.

When California legalised cannabis, sales rocketed to 2.5 billion dollars. This comes with a 15 per cent state wide tax on all recreational and medical cannabis products with additional local taxes and fees. That sort of money would go a long way to supporting the NHS.

A 2011 American study found 8.9 per cent to be the probability of a user becoming dependent on cannabis. This was lower than substances like cocaine, alcohol and nicotine. In a free society, it is morally wrong to stop people from partaking in drugs that were banned in 1928 when the world was a very different place. We have passed the tipping point of drugs use long ago.

Cannabis use is now the norm for many people and it is wrong that they should be treated as criminals when users of the far more addictive alcohol are not. Now is the time the Government should have the courage to legalise cannabis with a view to decriminalising all drug use. By all means make it illegal to deal or import drugs, only allowing limited home cultivation and purchase from chemists and cannabis dispensaries as they do in the USA. Their decriminalisation would mean better medical treatment of those with addiction issues. It would also take drugs off the black-market and into mainstream outlets where tax can be applied.

A new drug-based infrastructure would come into place and the illegal vendor pushed from the market with harsher laws. Decriminalisation of drugs will not cause the downfall of society. It will allow those with dependency issues to get the help they really need and curtail drug-related crime.

Twitter: GPTaylorbooks