Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Leaked UK government-sponsored evaluation of drug strategy is truthful and informative

On July 5, 2005, the Guardian newspaper in England reported on the leak of a top-level study of the British drug war prepared for the government.
Phil Smith reported this study last Friday, July 8, in the always excellent Drug War Chronicle

Headlined, The Downing Street Drug Memo, his story on this report was the second story reported, which was an appropriate level of prominence. But my first reaction was that it was an Onion-type spoof of the Downing Street Memo regarding the lead up to the war in Iraq written in terms of the drug war, and I skipped looking at it altogether, to see if I was quoted in other stories :o)

However, the study is genuine.

Posted on the Guardian web site, this 105-page report is extremely interesting. It is a very frank evaluation of the failure of drug enforcement in Britain.

The report finds that crime committed by drug users is the biggest dimension of the drug problem. It argues that only 30,000 of Britain’s 300,000 or so heroin and crack users commit the overwhelming bulk of the crime. Yet these drug users come into contact with the criminal justice or treatment agencies and aren’t adequately treated.

More striking is the overview of the economics of producing, smuggling and retailing drugs for the British market. The report makes very clear that prohibition has been counter productive – enforcement drives up prices encouraging more folks to enter the business, and creating more crime. Enforcement and interdiction result in quality fluctuations that lead to more overdoses. And the report is frank that current enforcement strategies are unlikely to make more than minor improvements.

The report is laid out in an extraordinarily visual manner.
Many of the pages could be directly plopped into a very compelling PowerPoint presentation about the failure of the war on drugs in Britain and the implications for the U.S.

If you are interested in understanding the war on drugs and its limitations, your time spent looking at the report will be time very well spent.

American readers will also be struck by the truthfulness, reasonableness, and compassion that is obvious in the report.

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