UK Police Leader Says: ‘Decriminalise Cannabis’

One of Britain’s most senior police officers favours decriminalising the personal use of drugs such as cannabis to allow more resources to be dedicated to tackling high-level dealers, The Observer newspaper reported.

Tim Hollis, chief constable of Humberside police, said the criminal justice system can offer only a “limited” solution to the UK’s drug problem, according to the Sunday newspaper.

It said Hollis’s dramatic intervention comes as the government is reviewing its 10-year drug strategy amid growing warnings from experts that prohibition does not deter drug use and that decriminalisation would liberate precious police resources and cut crime.

Hollis, chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ drugs committee, said he did not want to criminalise young people caught with minor amounts of substances such as cannabis. A criminal record that could ruin their career before it began was disproportionate, he was quoted as saying.

Hollis said budget cuts had forced police to “prioritise” resources towards tackling organised criminal networks rather than individuals carrying drugs for personal use. He also backed calls for the current drug classification system into class A, B and C to be re-examined following concerns that bracketing substances such as heroin and ecstasy in the same class is confusing, the report added.

“We would rather invest our time in getting high-level criminals before the courts, taking money off them and removing their illicit gains rather than targeting young people. We don’t want to criminalise young people because, put bluntly, if we arrest young kids for possession of cannabis and put them before the courts we know what the outcome’s going to be, so actually it’s perfectly reasonable to give them words of advice or take it off them.”

Hollis said financial constraints meant it was impractical to arrest everybody caught with new designer drugs available online and added that a debate was needed over whether alcohol and nicotine, which together kill more than 120,000 people a year, should be included in attempts to tackle illegal drugs.

“My personal belief in terms of sheer scale of harm is that one of the most dangerous drugs in this country is alcohol. Alcohol is a lawful drug. Likewise, nicotine is a lawful drug, but cigarettes can kill,” he said. “There is a wider debate on the impacts to our community about all aspects of drugs, of which illicit drugs are one modest part,” The Observer cited the police leader as as adding.

– Article from AFP

Drugs and yet another half-baked solution

by Sam Leith, The London Evening Standard

Tim Hollis, the chief constable of Humberside, was reported yesterday to be calling for soft drugs to be decriminalised — arguing that resources should be concentrated on catching dealers rather than end-users.

On the face of it, this sounds sensible. If our drugs laws have a purpose, it’s to reduce the harm drugs do in our society. Giving a teenager a criminal record for smoking dope is likely to do more harm to his life-chances than the dope itself — and at considerable public cost. Serious dealers are more likely to be mixed up in organised crime, and by nabbing a dealer you interrupt the supply, at least temporarily, to a number of users.

So, yes, Mr Hollis’s proposal sounds sensible: but only in the context of a system of prohibition that is simply bonkers in the first place. “Let’s decriminalise drugs so that we can concentrate on catching the criminals who deal them.” Any guesses as to what’s wrong with that sentence? Drugs can’t be half-illegal any more than you can be half-pregnant.

It simply does not make sense, either morally or practically, to criminalise supply at the same time as you liberalise demand. It’s like trying to rid your house of mice by scattering cheese all over the place and wandering from room to room with a tennis racquet.

Mr Hollis is also reported to have questioned a system that brackets ecstasy and heroin together. Well, the toxicity of ecstasy is comparatively low. The toxicity of clean heroin is even lower: it is addictive but nearly completely harmless.

What kills people who take heroin is its unpredictable adulteration, and what kills people concerned with its supply is a combination of its high scarcity cost and monopoly distribution by criminals.

I almost weary of writing this but every metric we have testifies to prohibition’s utter failure as a policy. Yet government time and again — pistol-whipped into purblindness by the Just Say No crew — can imagine no question to which “prohibition” isn’t the answer.

The case for legalisation is not some sort of fashion accessory adopted by north London trendies as they might a butcher’s block or an asymmetric haircut, it really isn’t.

Until drugs are legalised and regulated, our policy on the subject will be a standing moral absurdity, a bottomless sinkhole of wasted public money, and the cause of death after death after death after death.

So going after dealers may sound sensible. But the best way to go after them is to make them redundant. A half-solution is, in the long run, worse than none at all.

– Article from The London Evening Standard