Former British Drug Warrior Calls for Legalization


Julian Critchley says his experience as a top anti-drug official in the government of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair convinced him the war on drugs is futile and destructive. Critchley, who was director of the Cabinet Office's Anti-Drug Co-ordination Unit, now favors legalization. He says his conclusions were widely shared by drug policy officials:

I joined the unit more or less agnostic on drugs policy, being personally opposed to drug use, but open-minded about the best way to deal with the problem. I was certainly not inclined to decriminalise. However, during my time in the unit, as I saw more and more evidence of "what works," to quote New Labour's mantra of the time, it became apparent to me that…enforcement and supply-side interventions were largely pointless. They have no significant, lasting impact on the availability, affordability or use of drugs….

I think what was truly depressing about my time in UKADCU was that the overwhelming majority of professionals I met, including those from the police, the health service, the government and voluntary sectors held the same view: the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those intelligent, knowledgeable people were forced to repeat the nonsensical mantra that the government would be "tough on drugs," even though they all knew the government's policy was actually causing harm.

Speaking of depressing, Critchley's boss, drug czar Keith Hellawell, quit Blair's government over its decision to downgrade the legal treatment of marijuana, making simple possession of small quantities a "non-arrestable offense." The current Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, wants to reverse that modest step in the right direction, calling today's marijuana "lethal" and insisting, "We really have got to send out a message to young people [that] this is not acceptable."

[Thanks to Nathaniel Goggin for the tip.]