'This is a guide to making the case for the legal regulation of drugs from a position of confidence and authority. Organised into 12 key subject areas, it provides an at-a-glance summary of the arguments for legal regulation, followed by commonly heard concerns and effective responses to them. It is the product of Transform’s extensive experience debating the issues around legal regulation, and running workshops to equip supporters of reform with the arguments and nuanced messaging needed to win over a range of audiences.'
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Transform is an international organisation that provides evidence-based critiques of the war on drugs, new thinking on alternatives to the current enforcement-oriented regime of prohibition, and expertise on how to argue for reform.
It's just 22 clear, concise pages but maybe you don't have the time. Here is the summary in one page!
Debating drugs: how to make the case for legal regulation
Levels of drug use are often equated with levels of drug harm, but the vast majority of drug use is non-problematic. Rather than narrowly focusing on reducing use, policy should seek to reduce overall harm.
We should regulate drugs precisely because they are dangerous, not because they are safe
We already legally regulate many risky activities and substances effectively. Even some drugs prohibited for non-medical use – including opiates, amphetamines, cocaine and cannabis – are produced safely and securely for medical use without any of the chaos, violence and criminality of the illicit trade.
While there is no specific legal right to take drugs, the criminalisation of consenting adult drug use impinges on a range of internationally recognised legal rights, including the rights to privacy, health, culture, and freedom of belief and practice.
Drug laws that criminalise personal use are at odds with the law for comparable activities that involve risk-taking or self-harm by consenting adults, such as dangerous sports, unsafe sex, and the consumption of legal drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. These activities may not be wise, and they may even be actively discouraged, but they should not be criminalised
While some may believe that drug-taking is immoral, it should not be a crime. Other activities, such as gambling, adultery, or even homosexuality, are judged by some to be immoral, but they are not criminalised in modern societies.
Decriminalisation of drug possession and use is a positive first step towards reforming the current prohibition regime. Yet decriminalisation alone does not address many of the greatest harms of prohibition – such as high levels of crime, corruption and violence, massive illicit markets, and the harmful health consequences of drugs produced in the absence of regulatory oversight
Where there is high demand for drugs, prohibition just creates a criminal profit opportunity. Any interruption of drug production and supply simply increases prices, motivating more criminals to enter the market.
Legal regulation is tough on crime. Prohibition abdicates control of the market to organised criminal groups.
Legal regulation of drugs is about bringing the drug trade within the law, so that strict controls can be applied. There would be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach: the riskier the drug, the stricter the controls that should be placed on it. Legal regulation enables responsible governments to control which drugs can be sold, who has access to them, and where they can be sold. Under prohibition, it is criminals who make these decisions.
Legal regulation protects health: governments can control availability and ensure drugs are of known strength and purity. Consumers are aware of what they are taking and have clear information on health risks, and how to minimise them.
Legal regulation must be complemented by improvements in public health, education, prevention, treatment and recovery, as well as action on poverty, inequality and social exclusion
It is useful to explain what motivates those who support legal regulation. Transform, along with most other reform advocates, propose that drug policy should:
- protect the young and vulnerable;
- reduce crime;
- improve health;
- promote security and development;
- provide good value for money;
- and protect human rights.
The experience of the past 50 years demonstrates that prohibition cannot achieve these aims, and in fact actively undermines them.
Putting in place a drug policy that is healthy, just and humane is the most moral response to drug use – and that means legal regulation.