The Transform Drug Policy Foundation has published it’s new book “After The War On Drugs, Blueprint For Regulation”, more than 200 pages of specific and useful suggestions for achieving some regulatory control over our chaotic and gangster-run drug markets.
Broadly, it’s an attempt to answer prohibitionist questioning of exactly what a post-drug-war world would look like. They expect and fear chaos, streets full of violent drug-crazed kids, usage of drugs sky-rocketing with hospitals full of addicted vegetables.
Of course, we already have chaotic markets run by gangsters and mobsters, Blueprint sets out a more realistic picture of a drugs market controlled and sanitised by government rather than gangsters. Ways to regulate and contain drug use without forcing the worlds largest market into the hands of uncontrolled criminals.
The major benefits to the world’s health and well being from legislating to control the use of and market in the currently illegal drugs are pointed out.
Standardising doses means more consumer knowledge and so a substantial reduction in accidental overdoses. More than this, consumers rationally tend to chose safer, less extreme drugs. People prefer beer over vodka. Likewise, in a regulated market, they’re more likely to choose weaker strains of cannabis, raw opiates over heroin, energy drinks over snorted cocaine or smoked crack.
A legal market allows government to implement price controls, to raise revenue by taxing the sale of the drugs. Price controls can be set to discourage over-consumption yet low enough to discourage black markets and the criminal activity of supplying those markets or funding drug habits through acquisitive crime.
Legally sold drugs can be contained within legally mandated packaging. Tamper-proof so that doses are known. Child-proof to keep the things out of toddler’s hands. The packaging can contain health warnings, instructions for harm-reduction, help and advice for quitting use. Packaging legislation can also require no branding, no marketing from the shelf, no fashion-markets.
Another benefit of a legal controlled market rather than the chaos of the current system is a set of legally mandated controls on vendors. No more street-dealers hovering outside the school gates, only knowledgeable, responsible, sellers who risk losing their licence for inappropriate marketing, pushing, cajoling or selling to overly intoxicated users. Vendors can be examined, forced to pass a test before they can operate, proving they are responsible and knowledgeable about the dangers of the products they retail.
Legal markets can also use advertising controls. These controls can be extended to, or modeled on, controls on advertising of the currently legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco.
Legal control allows government and communities to specify the location of outlets, licensing shops, clubs or pharmacies to operate only where they will cause the least damage to communities.
Legal controls allow the state and communities to control of volume of purchase, allowing only restricted amounts of a drug to be sold at any given time, as we currently do with aspirin for example. Again, this reduces the chances of accidental overdose, of drunken impulse purchase, it reduces not increases the chaos in our society, in these markets.
Proper age controls can be mandated, actually protecting the children rather than allowing unethical criminals to sell to anyone with a ten pound note.
Transform suggest a different range of controls would be suitable for different drugs, including the currently legal Alcohol and Tobacco.
A coffeshop model, similar to alcohol distribution through pubs, seems best suited to cannabis. The sale of alcohol on the same site could be strictly controlled or even banned. Promotional activities tightly regulated. Health warnings and experienced medical help mandated on site.
For stimulants like Cocaine and Amphetamines they suggest a licensed specialised pharmacy model. Users may even be registered and rationed. Drugs can be ‘watermarked’ to prevent third party sales. Opening hours, location, and volume of sales can all be tightly controlled.
Less strict controls on coca based drinks may move people away from the more dangerous powder cocaine towards an ‘energy drink’ concoction such as the original coca-cola.
MDMA could be sold for consumption in licensed members-only clubs. Without alcohol on premises, and with expert help and medical attention available at all time. Each member only entitled to a certain amount of their drug of choice.
MDMA has also been used in therapeutic settings. This could be encouraged too, and could bring the medical benefits of the drug to help our society.
Again, these would likely be best licensed to be consumed on-site at properly controlled member clubs. Clubs could be mandated to offer non-using ‘sitters’ who’s duty is to ensure safe use, to use their professional training to ensure no psychologically damaging “bad trips” are likely.
By regulating the use of Heroin and Morphine more tightly than raw opium and “poppy tea” it is expected that users could be pushed slowly towards less damaging use of the opiate drugs. The former sold in specialist pharmacies, the latter perhaps in a more membership-club based setting.
The book sets out and explains in detail exactly how a post-war drugs market could be expected to work, how it’s less chaotic and dangerous to users and to the wider society than the current mess of criminal activity and police corruption which it’s well known a prohibited market contributes to.
I hope every politician reads it carefully, it’s a mature and sensible contribution the drug debate, something often sadly lacking.