Denver in Colorado has gone to pot. Teen drug use, crime rates, traffic accidents and hospital admissions have all rocketed since marijuana was legalised. Here in the UK we are turning our backs on drugs, with children and the new Generation Right of more responsible and self –reliant twenty-somethings leading the way. So what does the Theresa May’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) decide, in its wisdom, but to appoint an arch drug legaliser to its midst.
Alex Stevens, Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Kent, is better known for his drug legalising and lobbying activities. When not teaching or researching criminal justice he spends much of his publicly funded time on the drugs debate circuit, at seminars and conferences pressing his cause. I debated against him last autumn at the Cheltenham Literary Festival and a very smooth operator he was too.
Despite all the evidence to suggest the only way to reduce teen drug ‘harm’ is to stop them using drugs at all, he continues to push the case for the decriminalisation of cannabis possession, even for children. He appears to sincerely believe that such a move would prevent thousands of children from being unfairly criminalised – though warnings and cautions with no criminal sanction, not arrest or prosecution, are the order of the day.
As Peter Hitchens of The Mail on Sunday pointed out in his column on Sunday a more robust regime – with more sanctions – might just have saved Peaches Geldof, who was failed by ‘harm reduction’.
Now the Colorado experiment has categorically shown ‘regulation and control’ to be no more than a mirage.
But legalisers refuse to acknowledge this – or indeed that decriminalisation drives crime up and undermines the population’s safety, as our own Brixton depenalisation trial back in 2002 demonstrated.
Cannabis consumption increased by between 18-26 per cent for previous non-consumers relative to previous consumers, primarily by individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds and with prior offending. The Brixton trial also increased the prevalence of low-level criminal and anti- social behaviour, while hospitalisation for Class A drug use went up too.
This home-based and relevant evidence has not stopped Professor Stevens and his legalising allies forever harking on about and spinning the myth of the success of Portugal’s decriminalisation of personal drug possession.
A few years ago Professor Neil McKeganey and I took him on in blog spat over his interpretation of the available Portuguese drug use statistics. They clearly demonstrated a negative trend. He argued otherwise - positioning himself as an even-handed interpreter of the data he had carefully cherry picked.
That children’s drug use has doubled there since the law changed more than a decade ago is undeniable. So too is the contrast with England, where the number of children ‘who have done drugs’ halved over the same period (down from 12 per cent to 6 per cent) in a rejection of the lifestyles and values of the ageing celebrities like Sting, Richard Branson and Russell Brand, who are so keen to impose their agenda on the rest of us.
It seems, in appointing Alex Stevens, the ACMD is as out of touch as they are.
They only have to look to Latin America to see how disastrous legislation is proving there. Over 60 per cent of Uruguayans want their new law legalising cannabis to be repealed. Their Prime Minister has had to acknowledge that the illicit market is proving more difficult to regulate than he naively anticipated.
In Denver, the crime rate has gone up nearly 7 per cent in the first six months of 2014 when cannabis was legalised compared with the same period last year, according to new analyses of Colorado crime data.
And you only had to listen to the BBC’s Today programme yesterday to realise what a frightening head case the city of Denver has become, with its traffic accidents and tourists poisoned by the city’s wares.
Here the so-called ‘war on drugs’ is being won thanks to the Home Office and the Government sticking to its guns, on occasion defying its Advisory body and resisting the propaganda of the Home Affairs Select Committee under its unctuous chairman Keith Vaz.
But it is a moot point how long we can remain confident the Government will resist relaxation of the law, with the prospect of a Lib-Lab pact in view and the historic tendency of the ACMD to people itself with drug-legalising advocates committed to undermining the UK drug laws.
It is worrying too that Stevens’s appointment must have been known about by Home Office civil servants who, therefore must be complicit in the decision to get him onto the committee.
Yet anybody ‘Googling’ Stevens can be in no doubt of his views, suggesting that politicians also have gone along with his appointment either because they share them or they have not bothered to find them out. Either way the result is that the ACMD remains heavily influenced by those with a legalising, liberalising agenda despite the removal of its former head, the aptly named Professor Nutt.
In the meantime we can look forward to Professor Stevens re-enlightening the ACMD as to his very own interpretation of inadequate Portuguese data fresh from a Chatham House event he will be gracing with who else but our very Liberal Home Office Minister Norman Baker MP. Its subject? Drugs Policy Reform. What we can learn from the Portuguese Model.