Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Richard and Judy support 'legalising drugs'. Part II

Back in January the Transform blog reported on how Richard and Judy, 'the nations favorite TV couple', had come out in support of drug law reform (backing the recent report advocating moves towards legal regulation of currenly illegal drugs from North Wales Chief Constable Richard Bunstrom). The call came in the unlikely medium of their regular column in the Daily Express.

In that piece Richard Madely defends Brunstroms call for legalisation, noting that:

"...as a social policy, the criminalisation of drugs must surely be recognised for what it is:  an abject failure. Cocaine, heroin, speed and, yes, Ecstasy, have never been more widely available or cheaper to buy. Their illegal sale on an industrial scale nourishes a huge, sprawling and hydra-headed criminal underclass. All Richard Brunstrom – with,  by the way, the broad support of his police authority – is really asking is for a sensible debate on how we move on from the failed drug policies of the past."

This seemed like a bit of a scoop. They may not be the countries leading intellectuals but they are the very definition of mainstream and reading the really rather thoughtful and well argued case from Madely made me feel like, perhaps, the tide had turned in the popular consciousness in terms of entrenched support for a never-ending 'war on drugs'.

So imagine my suprise when bumbling around on the interweb like the nerd I am, I discover that both Richard and Judy have actually been on the record for some time with their progressive drug law reform views. Extraordinary that I hadn't come across this before really, but anyway, here, from an interview (well, live online 'chat') in 2004, I now give you Richard and Judy; Britain's favorite TV couple and torch bearers for drug legalisation:

phillip: what does richard and judy think about the down grading of cannabis, from a class B drug to a class C drug , and what affect do they think it will have on society

Judy : "My personal feeling is that legalising drugs is in fact the only way to combat the horrific crime element which is without doubt the worst aspect of illegal drugs in this country. I think it's hopeless to try and convince a lot of young people that they shouldn't smoke cannabis, as it's already a large part of their lifestyle. But I do think that not everybody should smoke it - we have heard of many reports of psychosis in kids who use it regularly."

Richard : "I agree with Judy. You'll never get the government of the day to decriminalise drug use. We have met senior politicians who privately agree that it would reduce street crime and robberies at a stroke - but the political cost is just unthinkable. If it were down to us we would have a joint programme of decriminalisation that would totally stuff the dealers and also introduce a massive public education."


Anonymous said...

Intellectually lightweight populist nonsense though Steve. That is what Richard & judy are of course in business for. Decriminalisation would not stuff dealers, even legalisation as I have explained to you ad nauseam would not stuff dealers. If that was anything like true the fake goods, tat and counterfeits of e-bay and the car boot sales (outwardly legal goods) would not exist. The alcohol/tobacco model worldwide causes far more total personal & social harm than the illegal drugs trade. If all drugs were to be made legal we could expect use to increase based on the EVIDENCE of the current alcohol/tobacco model. It is as well to stick to evidence Steve. Illegal traders can always undercut legal traders, offer something " a little stronger". You keep plugging away but the legalisation argument is finished in the UK. I have advised you before to get out and do something worthy of your undoubted talents.

Steve Rolles said...

David - My point was clearly that it was possibly symbolic of a shift in the mainstream public discourse not that Richard and Judy carry any intellectual or political influence. I dont quite understand how, as you keep saying, the legalisation argument is dead in the UK, why richard and Judy's position can be described as 'populist' or indeed why you remain so eager to engage in the apparently dead debate at every opportunity. Odd, given the debates apparent demise, that there were so many people in the mainstream media having precisely this debate over the last few days.

If you would like to take a look at the sections in 'After the war on Drugs - Tools for the debate' (linked in the right margin of this blog) on alcohol and tobacco you will understand why I don't think your points on those drugs make any sense.

And the argument that making a legally regulated supply of drugs available will not undermine the illegal market just doesn't make sense. Illegal markets wont dissapear altogether but they will be dramatically reduced - which is a indsputable net social benefit. Ive written about this aswell in tools for the debate.

Happy to debate as ever, and I take the compliment, even if Im afraid I still disagree with you.

john-boi said...

I do agree with David that regulation would not see the demise of the illegal market. It would undoubtedly but a severe dent in the estimated 70% of their earnings that they get from the drugs trade.

What it would do though is bring much needed competition into the drugs market. No longer would they be able to sell adulterated poor quality drugs at high prices as they do now. They would not only have to compete on price but also on quality. This in itself would mean that the drugs would have less potential for harm. No more cannabis sprayed with glass beads for example or poorly grown cannabis packed full of unflushed organophosphates. My own hypothesis re problems due to cannabis in this country yet not seen in Holland where high strength cannabis has been on sale for years is due to its illegal production in the Uk particuarly byt he vietnamese this is not seen in Holland.
We have cannabis pumped full of artificial fertilisers which as any grower who is worth his salt knows that these need to be flushed out by at least 2 weeks of fresh water. The cannabis is harvested too early so more THC and less CBD's. The cannabis is not cured porperly this curing changes the nature of the drug and allows the chlorophyll to degrade. Our kids are smoking high THC cannabis that not only contains high levels of pretty nasty artificial fertilisers but also has not matured properly no wonder some are having an adverse reaction to it.THis is just Herbal cannabis the adulterants in Hash type cannabi son sale in the UK are far more dangerousn to health than the cannabis itself.. This would all have to change if we had a Quality controlled cannabis legally on the market.

If we are really concerned about the health of our citizens then we must regulate and control.

Anonymous said...

I've read recently that police believe UK now exports homegrown cannabis. The theory stems from the discrepancy between estimated usage and the volume of seizures.

I don't find this theory credible, because most UK homegrown is of very poor quality and wouldn't be acceptable in the continental market. Also, it's far more dangerous to grow cannabis in the UK than in some other countries.

I'd suggest, rather, that the UK market has always been underestimated. Also, the police are very active in uncovering grow ops. and may be putting them out of business faster than they can be replaced.

I think we're seeing a move away from cannabis use not due to its perceived dangers, but restricted supply. There is simply very little good quality cannabis available. The downside of this for the prohibitionists is that other drugs are becoming more popular. Then again, some of them are so intent on harm maximisation that they wouldn't consider this to be a negative consequence.

Anonymous said...

My theory, based on idle conjecture, is that the plant material is actually making it to the market as 'skunk' and the THC is being siphoned off to produce soap bar.

My understanding is that up until a few years ago the cannabis market was dominated by Moroccan hash, or more accurately soap bar produced from Moroccan hash. However, due to a crack down in Marocco the amount of hash produced has fallen markedly. This has also coincided with a precipitous fall in the quality of 'skunk'.

While the figures for average potency of 'skunk' have fallen very slightly over this period, they still don't seem to reflect how dreadful 'skunk' has become. In fact the brand 'skunk' is dying, having become synonymous with weak, adulterated rubbish. If you do find anything of quality it's sold under its strain: blueberry, white widow, cheese etc.

The reason for this discrepancy may be due to the Home Office testing not only samples confiscated on the street but also those from raided 'cannabis farms'. Most of these are going to be from the biggest farms (harder to conceal) and likely the biggest contributors to the market and therefore (albeit tenuously) the producers of the terrible 'grit weed'. If the 'skunk' reaching the market is weaker than the average this means the plant when harvested is most likely stronger. This suggests that the THC is actually being 'shaken' or 'spun' off to be replaced with an adulterant of choice.

From my experience the market is actually adapting and when something you might consider buying appears there seems to be much fewer degrees of separation than previously. Your 'supplier' or at most your supplier's supplier will know the producer and they tend to be growing on a comparatively smaller scale than the huge profesional set ups. A rather unintended consequence of the crack down being the number of growers increasing but the scale of their operation decreasing.

MttJocy said...

No, the criminal market is not going to completely disappear, nor has anyone here said it would disappear David your misquoting is getting tiresome. There will undoubtedly be some who will try to smuggle drugs especially if taxes are set too high (we see this with tobacco due to the UK's overly heavy taxes on tobacco compared to other nearby countries).

However smuggled tobacco is still produced legally and thus is subject to quality controls which are protected with legal force (Unlike the illegal drugs trade where no law operates to regulate the sold products). This ensures that the tobacco is as described, is not adulterated has been cured correctly (brands that werent wold go out of business fast) and various protection laws also limit the use of pesticides to ensure they do not end up in the final product.

Further tobacco smugglers tend to be far smaller organizations with far less capital assets and less violent, if you can point to any tobacco smuggling gangs in history owning a fleet of Boeing 727 (F) model jet aircraft for moving hundreds of tons of tobacco per haul I will be very surprised.

And further it is clear that not everyone will buy from the illegal market when a legal one is available even where the prices are lower if you want evidence of this again look to your own sited examples with alcohol and tobacco there are still massive tax revenues generated from these even though the black market can supply both far cheaper than the legal market. The main reason for this is most people don't actually trust criminals they prefer to seek regulated suppliers where they know the risks and can trust the suppliers descriptions, and have legal remedy in the case of suppliers defaulting on those obligations.

Sorry and the alcohol and tobacco model are evidence use will increase under a legal system, well I am not sure of the figures for alcohol but for tobacco I call your bluff here, tobacco use has been declining in this country for years, and guess what it is still legal, illegal drug use however has been rising over the same period, how is this evidence that illegality causes use to drop.

Consider this, perhaps false information about risks has caused the discrepancy of high use of dangerous drugs like alcohol and tobacco over otherwise empirically safer illegal alternatives, when alcohol prohibition was ended people moved from the high strength easy to smuggle spirits back towards beers and wines for the majority (although some still choose to take higher risks which is their choice). Also note that alcohol and tobacco that can be compared as being legal the reports on their relative risks etc are defined with balance and perspective the more dangerous of the two (tobacco) has the lowest use and has continued to decline as the risks became more apparent.

The evidence is there for those that want to read it that people are not all the suicidal maniacs you seam to paint them to be and make balanced decisions with regards to risk every day actually it raises an interesting possibility that without the moral and legal coloring of prohibition and without the one sided information about the risks and rewards of drug use where all drugs including alcohol and tobacco were considered on level footing use of both could actually decline while use of some currently illegal drugs may rise, most likely falling into a proportional spectrum of relative perceived risk as is seen with the various different strengths of alcohol for instance. This would overall lead to a lowering of total harm without even considering the reduced harm caused by subjecting drugs to quality control and making harm reduction the real goal of policy.

Anonymous said...

so david can you please tell me where to buy my bootleg moonshine?

i only seem to be able to buy legally produced alcoholic drinks that have entered the black market to avoid duty....what a shame

and the reason that fags and alcohol cause so much damage is that they are more dangerous and addictive than many of the illegal drugs btw

"but the legalisation argument is finished in the UK" and look theres my laugh for the day , thanks mate