Monday, November 03, 2008

So you are right, and those drug prohibitionists/regulators/libertarians (delete as applicable) have got it all wrong? Well here's how to prove it...

Drug use and misuse is a hugely important issue, agreed? 

Then I have a challenge for you. All of you. 

First though, a question.

Do you know for a fact…; 

Option A:

… that prohibition is keeping a lid on dangerous drugs, and any alternative would be a disaster?

 Option B:

…that prohibition is a disaster, for the world’s poor and rich alike?

 Option C:

…that the truth is somewhere in between A and B?

Do you have enough confidence in your position to actually put it to the test? Do you want to prove the other side is wrong?

Of course you do. 

At Transform we also think that whatever position you take in the drug policy debate, all rational people can agree policy should be evidence-based. That of course means carrying out the research needed to settle the arguments, but that work has not been done yet. For example there has been no audit of the cost effectiveness of drug enforcement measures in the UK, let alone a systematic comparison of the health, economic and social implications of current policies and alternatives.

So I invite everyone from the Legalise Cannabis Alliance to supporters of European Cities Against Drugs and most importantly, all the individuals reading this, to call on the government to commission a comprehensive and independent cost-benefit analysis (CBA) comparing current UK drug policies with other options, including a health-led legal regulation and control approach. Then, whatever the outcome, future policy can be based on fact not ideology.  

To help you, we have written a template letter to send to your MP, or to amend and send to the Home Office if you prefer. Of course, feel free to write your own letter calling for a CBA if you don't like our text. Please also link to this page from your websites, and circulate it to your friends, colleagues and supporters.

Go on,  take the Transform challenge.

Unless that is, which ever side of the debate you are on, you are afraid that filling in the gaps in the evidence would prove you wrong...? 


Anonymous said...

The libertarian perspective isn't based on evidence, but based on the moral viewpoint that the state has no right to limit what the individual does to themselves, irregardless of the harm caused. Therefore a libertarian needn't care about the practical efficacy of prohibition or legalisation.

Libertarians may tend to think that prohibition is harmful, but the two views aren't necessarily coupled.

(I'm not a libertarian by the way, just a stickler for accuracy)

Anonymous said...

What about Option D...

Big Brother.

His time has almost come -
( note that out of 750 tested people, only 2 were caught. That's about a tenth of 1 percent for 25,000 pounds - what a deal ! )

Any change issues can be made moot because we can just regularly test everyone everywhere for evidence of their being a drug fiend.

Then we can put GPS transponders on all vehicles, monitoring them for traffic misbehaviours. After all, vehicles kill and maim almost as many people annually as drugs, no?

We can also attach voice-stress analyzers to telephone lines, broadcast audio microphones and other public areas to monitor conversations for lies, Government areas especially. Think of the annual damage done from Officials and citizens lying !!

We can top it off and bring bring Big Brother to life by implanting chips in everyone and placing video cameras strategically to monitor everyone everywhere !

This will all guarantee a dramatic crime reduction and increase apprehension and conviction of those that do sin, whoops, I mean violate laws.

It'll cost a lot, but look at the perfect society all this technology can bring us !!

Well, since those in power don't want their indiscretions, sins, and violations exposed, don't count on all that though. They just want to catch all the awful drug fiends at any price. Too bad though. It would be nice seeing them face justice for all their violations.

Who can we sacrifice first to bring all this to fruition? Well it appears we'll start with the drug fiends.

One tenth of 1 percent effectiveness ( in this case ) for 25,000 pounds. Hmmm.

chrisbx515 said...

A Fine challenge and a great way to try to force the debate, my letter sending will start today!!

Anonymous said...

OK, will write the letter.

But - and it's a big BUT:

Proper research simply isn't possible under prohibition so in truth a proper comparison can't really be made. Why? Simple, you can't collect data based on measuring the using population or the trade, you can only see some of the effects of the trade/using culture.

Doing any kind of science demands one thing and one thing only: The ability to measure the thing you're studying. This means being able to take valid statistical samples, being sure you're sampling the thing you're measuring in ways which don't introduce distortions. This can't be done with illegal things.

So your cost benefit analysis of prohibition will be based on dodgy science at best. In short, we have no way of knowing what real effects prohibition is having until we trip over the bodies in the street or get mugged for our laptops.

That, I would suggest, is the real reason the government won't produce this cost benefit analysis, not so much because they don't want to, but because they can't.

Steve Rolles said...

it would be imperfect - but even with existing data we could get a good idea - that would at least both provide a rough guide and also provide direction for future research.

HR2 said...

This is an excellent campaign and one that should be repeated at the international level. If the next ten year UNGASS process in March were geared towards this, perhaps a lot more progress could be made.

I think Derek makes a good point, as does Duncan. This cost-beneft analysis would necessitate asking serious legal, and moral questions, not just scientific ones. Some 'costs' won't be scientificaly measureable in that way. Some 'evidence' will be anecdotal. Sometimes, even if things work, they are not right (or legal) and sometimes things that hamper a certain goal, have benefits that over-ride that goal. Take, for example, quarantining all people who are HIV positive. That would work to reduce transmission, and would be evidence-based, taking into account quarantine protocols for other infectious diseases. But you can't do it. Why? Competing evidence of individual human cost. Similarly, locking up people who use drugs, even if it worked to reduce drug dependence (and I don't for one single second say that it could), must be measured against the costs to those people, not just to society as a whole or the overarching goal of drug control. And the flip side, taking on board Trnsform's challenge, is to consider the individual human cost or benefit of regulation (which I know is at the core of Transform's work).

At the least, such an analysis would help us to ask the right questions before we look for answers. This is what harm reduction was all about in the 80s and what it remains to be about now - asking what are the harms, and addressing those in reply.

Anonymous said...

Some ballpark figures from the USA:

An R.J.Reynolds website brags/complains that cigaret-smokers (mostly through excise taxes) pay over $30 bil. yearly to governments local, state and national. Meanwhile over $8 bil. is spent by those governments attacking cannabis users (872,000 arrests in 2007). WHO official Patrick Petit, in the same February 7, 2008 press conference announcing the latest figure of 5.4million deaths per year worldwide caused by tobacco cigarets, stated that tobacco (i.e. mostly cigarets) costs the US economy $180 bil. per year. (But what does the UN know, rightwing nationalist commentators cry, waving their stogies.)

If cannabis were legalized, and with it vapourisers, 25-mg. single-toke utensils and other harm-reduction equipment which could be used with tobacco as well as cannabis, what would happen to the Big Tobackgo profit margin (based on heavily advertised 700-mg. overdose), let alone to the worldwide mortality figures?-- and how would Big Pharma sell all that blood-pressure medicine? So the cost-benefit analysis depends on whose viewpoint you're examining.

Anonymous said...

Thats my email sent to Sion Simon. Although I do wonder how many of these letters will be largely ignored by many of the MP's out there?

Anonymous said...

The government is not interested in legalizing cannabis. The pharmacalogical companies make far too much money from drugs that arnt even an 1/8 effective. Cancer drugs are at no1 in their profit margins. Cannabis has been shown to even reduce and in some cases reverse tumor growth and promote new cells. In this light cannabis is more than treating the symtoms, its curing at source. As for recreational use, dont expect the government to care about that. As for holland there are many groups working to get the coffeeshops closed by late 2010 so if you are thinking of going on holiday id do it now just in case. Annoyingly there is alot of religious backing for the the prohibition of cannabis which sadly is not going away anytime soon. Not to meantion there is also alot of people still sufferign from the 1940's propaganda of "reefer madness" thinking if someone smokes a spliff they will turn into a serial killing rapist. All i can advise is to grow your own. Grown your own, dont tell anyone, use LED's so the police wont see excess heat coming from your house and above all dont be greedy ie 1 or 2 plants is enough.


Anonymous said...


The fact is the letter will be no good or the research! you already have the resarch all of the countrys that have controlled the use of cannabis the stats have FALLEN the uk government choose to ignore the facts and continue with the reefer madness idea.

I guess the uk and its population are some kind of super breed because if WE MAKE IT LEAGAL our stats will qite obviousley go UP lol.

THE REAL FACT IS THAT IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY AND IT WILL NEVER CHANGE! We all need to hit them where it hurts that means bring down the government "REVOLUTION IS NEEDED" We the uk are no better off than the libyans or any other country that are standing up to their so called leaders at the momment. How can we the masses let a building full of toffs spending the money we give them every year decide what we do with or put in to our own bodys IT'S A JOKE. I SAY WE ALL NEED TO STAND UP AND SHOW THEM WE DON'T WANT TO BE THEIR SLAVES ANY LONGER.