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Gold, incentives and meh

It makes clinical and political sense to decriminalise all drugs

Dr David Turner

Dr david turner duo 3x2

The drug debate was brought to the forefront again recently by none other than former Conservative party leader William Hague.

With much in the news recently about the possible therapeutic use of cannabis extracts, it is easy to confuse the legalisation of drugs for recreational and therapeutic use.

The recent decision by the home secretary, Sajid Javid, to relax the rules around cannabis prescribing from this autumn, will no doubt be welcomed by the families of children who have medical conditions seemingly much improved by cannabis extracts.

This should though not detract from the fact that if there is a potential for cannabinoids to be used therapeutically, which it would seem anecdotally there may be, then proper clinical trials need to be run and cannabis needs to be treated exactly the same way as any other drug in a clinical trial.

Having worked as a prison doctor, my opinion is we need to decriminalise all currently illegal drugs

We must get away from the idea that cannabis is a ‘naughty’ drug. After all opioids, of which heroin is an example, are some of the most commonly used pain killers.

As for recreational drugs being illegal, having worked as a prison doctor, my opinion is we need to decriminalise all currently illegal drugs. The state can then control the quantity and quality of drugs available, put criminal gangs out of business and raise revenue by taxing them.

The prison system is not only useless at preventing drug related crimes, in many cases it probably makes the situation much worse. Drug dealers do not stop plying their trade just because they are behind bars. The demand for their product is even greater in prison and the price they can charge higher than on the outside. Only those who read certain newspapers and have never worked in the criminal justice system could possibly think locking people up for drug offences is ever going to improve the problem of illegal substance abuse.

With wealthy democratic countries like Canada choosing to legalise cannabis, it is only a matter of time before currently illegal drugs are decriminalised in the UK. So why not be proactive and get ahead of the game? Drugs are big illegal business at the moment and when legalised will be big profitable legal business both for recreational and medicinal use. Someone is going to make a lot of money from this so why not UK businesses and the government?

For once it is not just an awkward, contrary old git like myself suggesting this, but a true-blue Tory - maybe there is hope of a change for the better?

Dr David Turner is a GP in north-west London

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Readers' comments (15)

  • doctordog.

    Clinical sense- probably.
    Political sense, definitely not.

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  • Judging from the one star ratings this forum is full of narrow minded old farts.

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  • Drugs are bad. Trying and failing to control their use isn’t working. At the end of the day though, doing something inadvisable should not be a crime (see junk food binging, alcoholism, smoking, UPSI). Legalise them. Use the tax to treat them and other pulblic health issues, free up the police and it’s a win win

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  • I agree with the author of the piece. The desire to alter ones consciousness is one of the few things which unites peoples from all places and all times and I suspect that in the future this era which really began with the Harrison Act of 1914, when government assumed the authority to decide how people may do this, will be looked at with a degree of bemused disbelief. But political cowardice will remain a stumbling block to the dispassionate evaluation of the evidence. Remember David Nutts utterance that taking MDMA is as risky as horse-riding, and the immediate effect this had on his career?

    Anyway, all of us are according to the law actually criminals who are in possession of trace amounts of an endogenous neurotransmitter called DMT, which according to the powers that be has no medical use and is a class A drug. Bloody laughable.

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  • Yes we need a new political party’
    Old ones outdated and failed to modernise

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  • AlanAlmond

    Guess none of you right on dudes have lived on an estate where 14 year olds hang out, out side the steps of your flat rolling joints, vandalising cars and running around like a bunch of feral rats? Legalising something that destroys motivation and mucks up the emotions of kids aint smart. Unless you live in a nice part of town and ‘do good work’ in prisons. High five, let them smoke dope.

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  • whether legal or illegal, cannabis is an extremely damaging drug, (even sometimes only used once), destroying motivation, social skills, and mental faculties,, carcinogenic, and we need to protect our nation's youth from this, whatever way possible. I have worked with the effects on youngsters,and increasingly older people, although their life expectancy is not usually good, wonder why?
    Let's see some good sensible alternative suggestions before we de-criminalise !

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  • David Banner

    Fags ‘n’ booze don’t cause any trouble, do they? So legalisation is obviously correct.
    Drug policies may be a laughable failure, but abandoning all responsibility to allow a whole generation to get wasted legally then use the proceeds to mop up the mess is morally bankrupt. What we have now is crap, but probably the least of all evils.

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  • @utterfool yes put them in prison instead those institutions well known for helping young men kick their drug habit then rehabilitate in to society.
    Legalising will DEFINITELY bring problems, but I just think it will be better than the status quo. Drug gangs are, in my opinion, worse than drugs. But what do I know, I’m mainly referencing “the Wire”.....

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  • AlanAlmond

    Northwestdoc | Locum GP28 Jul 2018 8:49pm
    Prison does not fit any part of my argument. There are plenty of laws you can break in this country and never go to prison. You confuse illegal with prison. I’ve worked extensively in both prisons and community drug services myself. Prison certainly isn’t the answer but legalising a harmful mind screwing drug and giving the police an excuse to do nothing about it isn’t a good idea, unless you like a puff yourself.

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  • @ utterfool so the police continue to waste time investigating cannabis possession cases (130000 in 13/14) for a crime for which you don’t advocate prison? What’s the point? Sounds like a massive waste of resources to me. But then again I’m not as worldly wise as you I’m off to read the guardian and cook the children’s organic quinoa before I roll a fat one....

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  • Pft, there's only 1 solution, and unfortunately its the hardest of the lot. You have to stop subsidising and start dis-incentivising drug/alc use. Completely. The classic liberal way, personal responsibility. I.E No welfare/housing benefits for drug/alc problems/mental health problems associated with it. No access to healthcare for the same problems. Show up with an OD in A&E? We will not treat you. The carrot hasn't worked, its time for the stick. We need to de-socialise our society, and start treating the population like adults again.

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  • Dr Ho, let's explore your solution-personal responsibility. I can jump on board with this-weekend footballers-treat your own broken leg, hang-gliders, treat your own spinal injuries!
    You can see where I am going with this.
    We aren't allowed to judge people's activities-fortunately
    Obviously we should get crime out of drug taking and ensure people pay VAT on their favourite tipple

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  • Home office statistics 17/18:

    Around 1 in 11 (9.0%) adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a drug in the last year.
    Around 1 in 5 (19.8%) adults aged 16 to 24 had taken a drug in the last year.
    Around 1 in 29 (3.5%) of adults aged 16 to 59 had taken a Class A drug in the last
    year, equivalent to 1.1 million people.
    Does it really make sense to criminalise over 3 million of our population? Being caught, criminalised and having a police record ruins lives with terrible consequences. The current "war on drugs" has failed dismally - police are under-resourced, many drug users are not drug ABusers, and the cost to society as so eloquently put by Prof Nutt in his government directed paper (immediately shelved for being politically incorrect) was that the harms to society are relatively small, compared to the harms to society of criminalising and marginalising.
    Well done David Turner for speaking the unspeakable - common sense.

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  • Dr Death - you didn't take it far enough. If you're responsible with your health, and the state doesn't provide cover, and you can afford it, you get private medical insurance, or you pay the full whack if something bad happens. Guess what, that's what happens in most of the rest of the world. the financial considerations of healthcare are not taken away from an individual's responsibilities in life. footballers and hang-gliders, could well afford medical insurance. And judging people's activities? we do that all the time. We put criminals in jail, we take children off child abusers/negligence, we call out extremists/communists/etc.

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