|Former defense secretary Bob Ainsworth described the War On Drugs as “nothing short of a disaster” and called on the British government to look at other options
All illicit substances, including heroin and cocaine, should be legalized, according to a former United Kingdom drugs minister who on Thursday became the most senior politician to push for a dramatic change in the strategy for dealing with drug enforcement in Britain.
Former Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth said that it is better for addicts to receive their fixes on prescription rather than allowing international criminal gangs to make billions in profits for supplying them, reports Nigel Morris at The Independent
Ainsworth was responsible for drug policy in the U.K., and as Defense Secretary, he witnessed first-hand the huge opium poppy fields in Afghanistan that supply heroin to the West.
Ainsworth called in the House of Commons for a “fundamental rethink” of how the country responds to drug addiction. He received the backing of senior MPs of all parties who argue that the current tough policy on drugs is counterproductive.
“We need to take effective measures to rob the dealers of their markets and the only way that we can do that is by supplying addicts through the medical profession, through prescription,” Ainsworth said Wednesday night. “We cannot afford to be shy about being prepared to do that.”
“It is far better they are going to a doctor, or going to a chemist and are getting their script than turning tricks as a prostitute or robbing their mates,” Ainsworth said.
His departure from politics now gives him the freedom to express his view that the “War On Drugs has been nothing short of a disaster,” according to Ainsworth.
“Prohibition has failed to protect us,” Ainsworth told the House of Commons on Thursday. “Leaving the drugs market in the hands of criminals causes huge and unnecessary harm to individuals, communities and entire countries, with the poor the hardest hit,” he said.
“We spend billions of pounds without preventing the wide availability of drugs,” Ainsworth said. “It is time to replace our failed War On Drugs with a strict system of legal regulation, to make the world a safer, healthier place, especially for our children. We must take the trade away from organized criminals and hand it to the control of doctors and pharmacists.”
“Politicians and the media need to engage in a genuine and grown-up debate about alternatives to prohibition,” Ainsworth said.
Ainsworth said he had seen the way that the heroin trade partly funded the insurgency in Afghanistan. “Bombs and bullets and the wherewithal to produce IEDs are bought by founds supplied by international drugs,” he said.
The massive number of foreign troops had not been able to stamp out the heroin trade, so it is time to consider the alternative of “taking the market away,” according to Ainsworth. He received cross-party backing for his call for a fresh look at current drug policy.
Peter Lilley, the former Tory deputy leader, said he favored legalizing cannabis, while continuing the ban on hard drugs. But he added, “I support Bob Ainsworth’s sensible call for a proper, evidence-based review, comparing the pros and cons of the current prohibitionist approach, with all the alternatives, including wider decriminalization, and legal regulation.”
“This could be a turning point in the failing U.K. ‘War On Drugs,’ ” said Labour MP Paul Flynn.
|Labour leader Ed Miliband: Legalizing drugs would send “the wrong message” to young people
But the Labour leadership was quick to distance itself from Ainsworth’s ideas. One party source described the legalization proposal as “extremely irresponsible.”
“I don’t know what he was thinking,” the source said.
Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, said Thursday that the legalization of drugs would send “the wrong message” to young people as he distanced himself from Ainsworth’s proposal for a debate on the issue, reports Hélène Mulholland at the Guardian
“These are not the views of Ed Miliband, the Labour Party or the wider British public,” said a spokeswoman for Miliband.
Caroline Chatwin, a drugs policy expert at the University of Kent, said that while it is important for people such as Ainsworth to air their support for changes in British drug policy, “it remains regrettable that this public support is unable to be offered by those in a current frontline position.”
“Ainsworth states that he is only able to express these views now that he no longer occupies a front line position and Cameron seems to have abandoned his own relatively liberal standpoint on this issue now that he is prime minister,” Chatwin said.
“While this suppression of the opinion of those in power continues to be the case, Britain will not be able to participate in an open and honest debate on this subject and will not be able to effect a much needed evidence-based policy.”