In its report "Refocusing Drug-Related Law Enforcement to Address Harms" released today, the UKDPC suggests that we need to get smarter in focusing law enforcement to reduce the harms associated with illegal drugs and illegal drug markets.
In a report supported by both SOCA and ACPO, the main conclusions are:
- Enforcement has contained illegal drug supply, but more arrests and drug seizures do not always lead to lower availability or fewer problems.
- However, some innovative approaches have addressed the most harmful characteristics of entrenched drug markets e.g. violence/intimidation.
- New measures of impact are needed so operations are judged on real benefits to communities, not simply arrests and seizures.
Transform welcomes the report for its clarity in showing that enforcement creates harm and for clearly calling for impact assessments of enforcement activity. As we explained in our recent meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to be meaningful such an assessment must explore all the options.
However, it is Transform’s view that the UK’s domestic strategy on drugs is part of a global ‘war on drugs’, (despite the US Drug Czar and Roger Howard’s claims to the contrary). On the BBC news this morning Roger was at pains to explain that there is no ‘war on drugs’.
Here's the Drug Czar's quote:
"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war on them," he said; "We're not at war with people in this country."
Here's Roger's (BBC News): "You can't have a war against your own people and against your own citizens."
The fact is that states can (and do) indeed engage in drug wars against their own and other nations’ citizens. And therein lies the problem with the UKDPC report. Like the conclusion of the report from Costa, it effectively calls for ‘tactical strikes’ in the war on drugs, not an end to the war.
The ‘harms’ in the global drug war are the deaths and degradation of millions of the most marginalised people on earth, and it smacks of propaganda to even use the term ‘harms’. Tactical strikes to reduce damage to civilian bystanders is a nonsense when it is the drug control system itself and the enforcement of supply side laws that creates most of the trouble in the first place.
If we are to truly remove the ‘harms’ caused by the drug control system we do not need smarter weapons, we must end the war on drugs altogether, and replace it with a normative regime based upon human development, human security and human rights – the three pillars of the UN.
See also: Politics.co.uk on the UKDPC Report - with Transform quote
UKDPC Briefing Paper - Moving towards Real Impact Drug Enforcement