Drug Policy

Former British Drug Warrior Calls for Legalization

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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.]

NEXT: Bernie Parks Encourages Smoking

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  1. Is the tide turning or am just not jaded and cynical enough yet?

  2. calling today’s marijuana “lethal”

    I can barely leave the house without stepping over someone dead of a marijuana overdose.

  3. *sigh*

    We sure see a lot of these ‘former drug hoopty-doo wants legalization’.

    Here’s one I’d like to see:

    Current Drug Czar Demands Legalization- Presses Legislature for Reforms

  4. Lethal. “He may look dead, but he’ll wake up ready to eat up everything in your house.”

  5. There’s a reason they always call the top anti-drug person a “czar”.

  6. I get bags with my name on them.

  7. Lethal. “He may look dead, but he’ll wake up ready to eat up everything in your house.”

    All of the Doritos and Oreos anyway.

  8. J sub D,

    Clearly we need to ban the sale and manufacture of Doritos and Oreos. For the children.

  9. I’m amazed that drug prohibition is not generally perceived as the harmful policy that it is.

    I’m flabbergasted, astounded, flummoxed and incredulous that a relatively benign drug like marijuana is still illegal.

    I guess most people are stupid.

  10. Clearly we need to ban the sale and manufacture of Doritos and Oreos. For the children.

    You’ll be happy to know the nanny-staters (obesity department) is already working on that front.

  11. More and more people are seeing the obviousness of the truth.

    The current Labour prime minister, Gordon Brown, wants to reverse that modest step in the right direction, calling today’s marijuana “lethal”

    …but there are still some incredibly stupid people out there. WTF is Brown smoking?

  12. There’s a reason they always call the top anti-drug person a “czar”.

    I think we need to popularize a less flattering name.

    I nominate “Anti-Drug Fuhrer.”

  13. ## Clearly we need to ban the sale and
    ## manufacture of Doritos and Oreos.
    ## For the children.

    # You’ll be happy to know the nanny-staters
    # (obesity department) is already working on
    # that front.”

    I can’t wait until the Drug Czar is joined by the Doritos Czar and the Oreos Czar. Perhaps they can get together every week for tea. Images of Alice’s Tea Party come to mind.

  14. James, I take it the Crumpets Czar won’t be invited?

  15. “””WTF is Brown smoking?”””

    For most in Europe smoking pot is as lethal as smoking tobbaco. Because they mix the two. Yuck

  16. Brown thinks lethal is the new hip word for awesome.

  17. No one who speaks German can be a bad man.

  18. Imagine there’s no Heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace

    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one

    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world

    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one

  19. I can’t wait until the Drug Czar is joined by the Doritos Czar and the Oreos Czar. Perhaps they can get together every week for tea. Images of Alice’s Tea Party come to mind.

    Eventually we’ll need a Czar Czar just to keep them organized.

  20. No one who speaks German can be a bad man.

    Hermes: We can’t compete with Mom! Her company is big and evil, our company is small, and neutral.
    That guy: Switzerland is small and neutral! We’re more like Germany: ambitious and misunderstood.
    Amy: Look, everyone wants to be like Germany, but do we really have the pure strength of will?

  21. Eventually we’ll need a Czar Czar just to keep them organized.

    It’s Czar Czar Galore!

  22. All jokes aside, is anyone else troubled by the (apparent) fact that most of the people involved in the enforcement aspect of these laws (experts if you will) don’t like them, and let’s say a sizable minority of liberals and all the libertarians in the country don’t like them, but we can’t for the life (read:liberty) of us get rid of them?

    Why have you failed so badly for so long? Anyone? Anyone?

  23. 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.

    Either he is lying about what people in the WoD establishment really believe, or those people are willing to actively participate in a repressive regime that they know causes more harm than good.

    Which is worse – being so stupid you actually think the WoD is a good idea, or being so [I don’t even know the word for it] that you will participate and profit from the WoD even though you know its a bad idea?

  24. What I want to hear is everyone’s vision of a legalized marijuana market ..not just the thoughts of reformers but those of prohibitionists and the general public too.

    So to everyone who happens to pass by this way, how do you envision a legalized marijuana market will look?

  25. aren’t there more current and past potheads in the US than there are black people? That’s what all the surveys fromt he 70s and 80s report.

    We need a stoner MLK Jr.

  26. [I don’t even know the word for it]

    Corrupt and vile come to mind.

    how do you envision a legalized marijuana market will look?

    Who cares? That’s up to the customers and suppliers to decide. Unless you’re talking about regulation, and beyond an age limit at 18, I’m not especially interested in regulating the market. Well of course except just that sellers should be selling what they say they are.

  27. Personally, having been to Amsterdam, I think there would be a lot of tourist opportunity in places like Harlem in New York City (and probably other places in other cities) where you could go for a pipe of nice hash and then wander around looking at museums or other touristy stuff.

    It could be a business improvemnet zone and really help out the poor folks there with increased cash from tourism.

  28. Because if there’s anything people from all over the world want, it’s to smoke weed surrounded by black people from a culture completely different from their own.

  29. He’s faking it just to get free publicity! VOTE RON PAUL!

  30. Warren | August 13, 2008, 5:15pm

    Here ’tis.

  31. Why have you failed so badly for so long? Anyone? Anyone?

    Andy, you will be ignored with these questions. We’re going to keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing to get these laws overturned. Why mess with success?

  32. Look folks, when we can’t even get a freakin’ Snus fix, can we just agree that “an end to the drug war” is probably not going to happen anytime soon?

  33. All jokes aside, is anyone else troubled by the (apparent) fact that most of the people involved in the enforcement aspect of these laws (experts if you will) don’t like them, and let’s say a sizable minority of liberals and all the libertarians in the country don’t like them, but we can’t for the life (read:liberty) of us get rid of them?

    .. the way that I see it, it’s a matter of cojones and cojones ..

    .. the first set of cojones are the ones that seem to go missing whenever someone is elected to Congress and this issue comes up … aside from the few (Paul, Franks, Rohrbacher, for example) logic, principle and reason (and cojones) disappear whenever drug reform is mentioned ..

    .. the other set of cojones are OURS and the Feds have them in their tight grip .. the drug warriors will be dragged into any meaningful reform kicking and screaming, digging their nails into the pavement, foaming at the mouth, a duplicate of a spoiled-rotten three-year-old having a major temper tantrum, before ever releasing that grip ..

    .. Hobbit

  34. Hermes:
    When i was two there was a hurricane in Kingston Town
    with a foot and a half of water
    Everyone was alright, but I cried all night
    It blew my alphabet blocks out of order
    And they say
    this boys born to be a bureaucrat
    born to be all obsessive and snotty
    I made my friends and relations fill long applications
    to get into my tenth birthday party

    Labarbara:
    But something changed when my man turned pro
    Hermes:
    I was sorting but I wasn’t smiling
    Labarbara:
    He forget that it’s not about badges and ranks
    Hermes:
    It’s supposed to be about the filing!

    People,
    We didn’t choose to be bureaucrats
    No that’s what our mighty Ja made us
    We treat people like swine and make them stand in line
    Even if nobody paid us

    They say the world looks down on the bureaucrats
    They say we’re anal, compulsive and wierd
    But when push comes to shove you gotta do what you love
    Even if it’s not a good idea
    Zoidberg!

    Zoidberg:
    They said i probably shouldn’t be a surgeon
    Farnsworth:
    They poopooed my electric frankfurter
    Leela:
    They said I probably shouldn’t fly with just one eye
    Bender:
    I am Bender please insert girder

    Hermes:
    Everybody sing Jamaica!
    All:
    Jamaica!
    Hermes:
    Just the bearuacrats – Jamaica!
    Bureaucrats:
    Jamaica!
    Hermes:
    Just the grade nineteens!
    Morgan Proctor:
    Jamaica.
    Hermes:
    Sing me home,
    When push comes to shove you gotta do what you love
    Even if it’s not a good idea!

  35. Juanita | November 14, 2007, 10:35am | #

    “prohibition is the ultimate answer, in the meantime we favor education”

    Drinking isn’t good for us. The government has a right and in fact an obligation to make anything that isn’t good for us illegal. One of the primary purposes of the government is to keep us all safe from things that aren’t good for us. Anything that helps the cops to keep us all safe and healthy is inherintly a good thing. I’m all for it.

    “Drinking is victimless? Maybe on an individual level, but certainly not on a collective level.”

    Correct, we all pay for each others health care througth medicare, medicaid and insurance, so everyones individual health choices are everyones responsibility.

  36. Except in Britain he would be called “Drugs Warrior” not “Drug Warrior.”

  37. R C Dean,

    The word you were looking for is “Spineless.”

  38. haha Juanita, you are a troll.

  39. The problem with the Blair government’s downgrading of marijuana was not that it was a ‘bad’ or ‘good’ move but rather that it was a confusing one.

    Whichever side of the drug debate one is on (and I’m on the libertarian side) laws should be easy to understand, as in ‘these drugs are legal’ or ‘these drugs are illegal’.

    Downgrading marijuana introduced pointless confusion, with different ‘grades’ of illegal drugs leading to different sentences. The law was unclear and people lost confidence in it (as they have already done with the even more confusing tax systems used by most western countries) and this impacted the credibility of the wider legal system.

    Blair’s downgrade was a marketing trick (as was so much that his government did) and should not be considered an indication that he was a proponent of individual freedom – so much of his other legislation demonstrates that that was not the case.

    Of course, at least Blair had marketing tricks – the pointless waste of space that is Brown doesn’t even have those in his repertoire.

    Blair was incompetent but slick and entertaining, Brown is just incompetent.

  40. how do you envision a legalized marijuana market will look?

    More or less like the tobacco and alcohol markets: restricted and appropriately regulated, but legal.

  41. how do you envision a legalized marijuana market will look?

    As long as you can privately grow it and share it with your friends, I really don’t care about other regulations or how it is marketed.

  42. “””The government has a right and in fact an obligation to make anything that isn’t good for us illegal.”””

    By that standard, Juanita should be illegal.

    “””More or less like the tobacco and alcohol markets: restricted and appropriately regulated, but legal.”””

    TallDave, I wonder why people even ask the question, it’s not like they have no idea about our current system of adult substance distribution.

  43. Episiarch wrote, “Eventually we’ll need a Czar Czar just to keep them organized.”

    In that case, I’m waiting for someone named Binks to be appointed to the job.

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