As the rest of the world legalises drugs, should the UK ‘just say no’?

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In 2018, there were 4,359 deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales. This is the highest number and the highest annual increase since 1993. This is clearly far too high and it falls to politicians to help stop this epidemic and bring this horrendous statistic down.

The drug debate is a fascinating one especially at this point in time. Firstly, this week POI will argue from each of our political ideologies about how we think we should be dealing with the most dangerous drugs on our streets, as well as arguing how we see best in helping out people who have suffered due to the drug trade. Is there a call for stronger measures or is there another way of dealing with this problem?

There is a debate surrounding the use of marijuana and the argument for its legalisation. We have seen the legalisation in Canada and certain states in America all adding fuel to the fire on the debate surrounding marijuana. Furthermore, our editors will be examining the effect of legal highs and how we can try and stop them spreading. These issues are what our editors tackle this week. What is the best way forward for the United Kingdom over the issue of drugs.

Written by Jack Kane

Drugs need to be legalised to save lives – liberal article

Yes, you read that correctly. Legalising drugs will save lives for a number of reasons. If marijuana is legalised, the fatal effect it has would be removed as well as being available for medical purposes that can really help patience in need.

When I talk about drug reform, most Liberals want to see the legalisation of marijuana (weed) as do I. This is not because I want to use or want to make it easier to obtain, but because legalising marijuana is simply a rational governmental policy.

Marijuana is not fatal. In fact, when studied, ‘marijuana users died no sooner than those who did not smoke it.’ Not only this, you would have to ‘use more than 1,000 times the effective dose of marijuana in order for it to be potentially fatal’. That is just for it to be potentially fatal. In fact, there has only been one fatality in America from marijuana, which was not even directly related to smoking the drug.

There are some risks when taking the drug, but the risks are the same as drinking. Smoking has far greater an effect than marijuana ever could. Would you ban all these? I think there is a fair argument to ban smoking in fact, but you would understand why would you want legalise marijuana, even if there is a small risk of effect.

Firstly, marijuana sold through private companies or through the government is far safer. The police have started a program at festivals, where festival-goers bring the drugs they have bought to the police, they test it to make sure their are no other substances in them, and given back to the festival-goer if there are no substances that are alarming in the drug. ‘Testers found that one in five substances sold… were not as described by dealers.’

‘Samples contained ketamine instead of cocaine, while a drug sold as MDMA turned out to be n-ethylpentylone, a long-lasting cathinone that can cause anxiety, paranoia, insomnia and psychosis.’ If the government sells the drugs, they can control what they are selling and make sure that the product is safe.

With the government controlling drugs, we start to see gangs disappear. Gangs no longer have products to sell, as the government is growing and selling it themselves for a cheaper amount than drug dealers can, due to the risk they take. Drug gangs will cease to have any money flowing in. With no material incentive for them, why would drug dealers take the risk? Drug gangs would simply slip away, and with gang related crime being as high as it is in Britain, is this not a good thing?

Finally, if you are a neoliberal who loves nothing more than making sure the economy is strong, legalising drugs helps the economy too. Through taxes on marijuana sales, ‘Washington made …an estimated $319 million.’ There is a massive economic upside to the legalisation of drugs.

I didn’t even get time to talk about the medical benefits that come with the legalisation of drugs or the need for heroine assisted treatment that is currently being used in Switzerland or the fact it was just a law by Nixon to target ‘blacks and hippies’. I used to think as you do, that the policy to legalise drugs was far fetched and was just wanted to make drugs easier to obtain, but with all these rational arguments screaming at us that drugs should be legalised, why should’t they?

Written by Max Anderson

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The Liberal stance is the way forward – a Labour response

Labour has been known to criticise the Liberal Democrats’ stance on drug legalisation in the past, that is a fact, but the party has finally realised the error of its ways.

Mr Anderson’s defence of decriminalisation is a common sense approach, and the only way to break out of the cycle of drug misuse and violence related to the trade. He has rigorously highlighted the positive impacts the change of law could have on public health as well as society as a whole, arguments which I have also proposed.

Prohibition merely pushes the trade underground, resulting in the sale and consumption of dangerous products, as well as isolating users and denying them state support and access to safe and cleanly environments for drug use. Mr Anderson is spot on.

You can’t cherry-pick your statistics. Not enough evidence yet to allow legalisation – a Conservative response

Mr Anderson writes a good article and I do agree with him on certain issues. Economically marijuana is profitable and there are certain statistics that do shove the legalisation of marijuana into a good light. However, there is not enough evidence to fully support legalisation.

Mr Anderson makes a good point about marijuana fatalities. There has been a very small amount of deaths due to marijuana but we cannot just look at one set of statistics. There are far too many medical and health problems arising from the use of marijuana such as a “40% increase in homicides related to drugs,” in Portugal which has very liberal drug laws.

This is the same in America as since 2012, “Colorado has seen violent crime rise by 20 percent, compared with a decrease of about 1 percent in violent crime nationally over the same period.” This also goes for Alaska with 30% and Oregon with 21%. This one statistics should not be your one argument to be pro legalisation.

The idea of banning smoking is an interesting one from Mr Anderson. Due to its terrible effects it is the UK who have some of the strongest anti-smoking bans and laws. We know of the terrible problems it can cause however, smoking is a cultural phenomenon and with tough bans on smoking these will help allow it to be slowly diffused out of society. Things like this take time.

With Marijuana, it has not entered our British society yet so we must not rush to legalisation. There are currently far too many worrying side effects to people’s health and we must not legalise just because it is economically profitable. We must only legalise if marijuana is proven by the best health authorities to be an item worthy of legalisation.

Is legalisation the best way forward? I am not sold yet – conservative article

We are at a fascinating crossroad over the issues of drugs especially with the recent legalisation of marijuana in Canada. With further research into the true economic and physical effects of marijuana the call for legalisation has become even stronger especially in the UK. However, although there is an interesting case for legalisation, I am not sold. Certain evidence is hand-picked by pro-marijuana supporters and I believe further evidence is required.

With one of Boris Johnson’s new close aides being a supporter of legalising marijuana it is vital that he knows the facts on the issue and we can not deny that there are good arguments
for legalisation. The prime example of decriminalisation is underway in
Portugal where there are very low overdose deaths, as well as “Portugal’s decriminalisation has also reduced the number of HIV-positive people addicted to drugs.” There is also the economic
argument which strongly helps the fight for legalisation. Last year just in Colorado, marijuana sales was at $6.5 billion. Much of this funding goes directly to and straight back into Colorado’s economy allowing job security and allowing more jobs to be created.

So with these facts out in the open it seems rather hard to argue against them. However, after conducted research this week it appears that this not the case. Underlying facts do sway me to right now not supporting the legalisation of marijuana and these are the reasons why.

Firstly, the idea that legalisation is the magic key to solving our drug problem is simply not true. Countries such as South Korea and Japan who have similar strict drug laws to the UK have some of the lowest drug deaths in the world and have far better results than Portugal who is famous for its liberal drug laws.

Furthermore, many of the figures from Portugal are hand-picked by pro-marijuana supporters. Little do the forget to mention that “there has been 40 per cent increase in homicides related to drugs.” Yet this is not happening just in Portugal. Since 2012, “Colorado has seen violent crime rise by 20 percent, compared with a decrease of about 1 percent in violent crime nationally over the same period.” The same goes for Alaska with 30% and Oregon with 21%. These are concerning statistics.

This is highly concerning findings and we therefore must tread with serious caution. Further evidence has found that smoking marijuana frequently makes it far more likely for the smoker to be develop schizophrenia. This could lead to further strain on our NHS over an issue that we can control.

For me this week I have learnt a great deal. It is clear that the issue of legalisation is going to be the next big debate for drug reform but before this week I never had a true opinion on the matter. I now believe that unless further concrete evidence comes out to support the legalisation of marijuana, I can not support it. The medical evidence far outweighs any economic argument and unless this changes, I will not be sold on the legislation of marijuana.

Written by Jack Kane

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Worried about drug use in the UK? The status quo is not the answer – a Labour response

Mr Kane argues, as usual, in a thorough and sensible way. I fully understand his concerns regarding the legalisation of drugs, but does he not realise that we are currently facing a drugs epidemic in the UK, with use of dangerous synthetic cannabinoids of the up, especially in the homeless community.

Mr Kane is falling into the trap of “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”, as Albert Einstein once wrote, although it doesn’t take an Einstein to realise something needs to change.

The war against drugs has seen increase in drug use and a rise in knife crime – often linked to drug trade and turf wars. The current ban is ineffective, and legalisation would at least open up conversations surrounding drug use, and make state support of those choosing to use, more readily available.

I think Mr Kane can’t call himself a compassionate Conservative anymore – a Liberal response

Mr Kane quotes – ‘Countries such as South Korea and Japan who have similar strict drug laws to the UK have some of the lowest drug deaths in the world’.

I will not focus purely on this quote for my response, but as Miss Jewell has written a brilliant response as per usual, I do want to do into some detail. Mr Kane must remember that the drug policy is very much different from the UK, considering that South Korea still use the death penalty against drug offences. Although a symbolic punishment, I would like to ask Mr Kane, will he join Priti Patel in wanting to bring back the death penalty to criminals, or does he still consider himself a compassionate conservative?

Mr Kane has also used the spectator and Portugal as an example for why decriminalisation of drugs doesn’t work despite the fact Portugal have failed to do so, something his own article states – ‘not knowing what actually happens to drug-users in Portugal and hopes that, like the Times headline did on Thursday, we will confuse the words ‘decriminalised’ with ‘made legal.’ Mr Kane I think needs to check his facts, and like his own Spectator article says, should try not to get confused.

Let’s get real, we need a Public Health approach to drugs


Labour’s position on drug reform is beginning to shift, after its long standing draconian position towards the issue. The Labour Party recognises that the status quo is simply not working, and that instead we need a public health stance which improves the lives of addicts, and greater Society. 

It only takes common sense to realise that the current hardline position on drugs is not effective. Diane Abbott highlighted this harsh reality, when she told The Sunday Times that  “there is nothing more important than preserving the life of our citizens….Our current approach to drugs is simply not doing that.” In England and Wales, drug-related deaths are at their highest level since records began in 1993. We are facing a crisis of drug misuse, and the only way to mitigate the impact of these substances, is to make the process of buying and using more transparent. 

Abbott detailed how the Labour party would “establish a royal commission to review independently all drugs legislation and policy to address related issues of public health” as well as considering the implementation of state run overdose prevention clinics, to minimise the risks of overdose and the diseases linked to unsanitary injection. 

In fact, countries in which drug use is decriminalised, and therefore more transparent, have seen decreases in the levels of HIV amongst users. Portugal is a clear example of this, having decriminalised all drugs in 2001.  

As a country facing a homelessness crisis, drug reform is an important issue to discuss. The charity, Crisis, describes how “problems with drugs or alcohol can be part of a person’s spiral into homelessness”, asserting that “those who use drugs are seven times more likely to be homeless.” 

The main problem with drug use in the homeless community, is the misuse of illegal substances; the current system assures that the homeless have no access to sanitary conditions in which to use drugs – massively increasing HIV risks. The homeless are also vulnerable to unsafe drugs which are mis-sold and unregulated, both problems could be reduced by legalising drug use, and pushing the industry out of the black market. 

I would like to clarify that I do not believe that all homeless people are drug users, nor do I judge the use of drugs, as it is often born out of desperation and mental health problems. Homelessness is an epidemic that needs to be tackled.

Asides from the impact upon drug users, legalisation and regulation of the drug trade would also help crack down on violent crime and exploitation. Labour MP David Lammy stated that “the war on drugs is funding gangs, fuelling crime,” these violent organisations are often behind knife crime, which has sky-rocketed in recent years. 

The status quo is simply not an option if we want to make our communities safer, legalisation would push gangs out of business, reducing the demand for underground supply.  

My only qualm when considering a liberalisation in drug laws was the potential knock-on effect it could have on the drugs trade. The current state of affairs is sombre, with the illegal drugs trade exploiting millions of vulnerable people. One only has to think of the violence of the Central American drug war, and the destruction it has brought to individuals, communities, and the environment to realise that steps need to be taken to avoid perpetuating the criminal industry. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has acknowledged this, pledging that he would “look at supporting people who want to get out of the drugs trade in other parts of the world.”

In a society where drugs are legal, regulation is key, regulation of drug supply, quality, and use. Taking a public health view when legislating on drugs is the only way to create a constructive and safer future.

Written by Isabella Jewell

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Although Miss Jewell policy is the right one, it is for the wrong reasons – a Liberal response

I was hoping for a strong argument to reform drug policy similar to mine, taking up a similar argument as I presented, but alas I feel she has missed out on some very key issues.

I am sad she didn’t bring up Switzerland’s herion-assisted treatment. Although Miss Jewell talks about a similar program, she doesn’t name Switzerland’s plan and how effective it has been. It has helped save people from diseases such as aids, given people safety, and put them onto a path of recovery. Maybe it is true, ‘Labour doesn’t work’

In addition, I am surprised she has blamed knife crime on drug gang violence. That is not the case. As much as I respect David Lammy, he has unfortunately got his facts wrong… ‘Labour doesn’t work’. All the evidence for this is shown by our own article about knife crime we did a while back.

Miss Jewell’s policy is far from flawed here, but if we want to convince the public to legalise drugs, which we all agree is for the best, we need to get our facts right and give good evidence to back up our joint evidence, and I feel Miss Jewell, for perhaps the first time at POI, has let the side down.

More evidence is required to put Conservatives on side – a conservative response

Miss Jewell always writes an interesting article and she does make an excellent about Labour’s draconian position and as a Conservative, my party is of a similar imposition. Our stances need to be updated and with the debate about legalising marijuana coming to the forefront, there is no better time to have this discussion. However, without more substantial evidence it is hard to support the legalisation of marijuana on medical grounds. Heavy links to schizophrenia as well as far many more people who smoke marijuana are more likely to move onto more hard-core drugs. Medically it is simply not the right move.

Miss Jewell also makes the same argument that Mr Anderson makes by stating the reduction in drug crime in Portugal. Again this figure has been cherry-picked as they forget that homicide rates have drastically increase under these laws. Yet they forget that countries such as Japan and South Korea who have very strict drug laws, have some of the lowest drug death rates. It seems that legalisation is not as good as first thought.

Finally, liberals and those of a left leaning disposition believe that legalisation with the help of government will help wipe out all black market drug trading. This is unfortunately not the case with multiple American states with legalised drug laws finding huge amounts of black market marijuana. Legalisation in its current capacity it not the right move. More evidence is the only way for the marijuana lobby to change conservative’s views.

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