We hear an awful lot about the virtues of legalising drugs, but rarely about the costs of such an experiment.
Last week we were told that we should stop treating addiction as a crime (though we don’t) and start treating it as health problem (which we do already, to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds a year for mainly methadone treatment, questionable though this synthetic heroin substitute is, and some other interventions).
The Times reported, somewhat misleadingly, that hospital doctors, in the form of the Royal College of Physicians, were calling for all drugs to decriminalised – prompting the questions: even ketamine? Even the dangerous heroin substitute krokodil? Would they would be handing out medically prescribed and supervised diamorphine? Such are the dilemmas lurking in the Pandora’s Box of legalisation.
Further down the text you find that the RCP is not quite so gung-ho about legalisation after all. What it really had ‘thrown its weight behind’ was a campaign by nameless ‘public health leaders’ to give priority ‘to tackling the harm caused by drugs rather than attempts at reducing their use’.
Possessing drugs for personal use, the College thinks, should no longer be a crime, but it stops short of advocating legalisation, and believes that dealers should still be prosecuted. Which is pretty much a description of the Government’s current drug policy.
Exactly what hospital doctors are facing on a daily basis in A&E is the de facto decriminalisation of all sorts of illegal drugs, and a country overrun with drugs and drugs crime because of the laissez-faire approach of the police.
It is time the Times wised up to the country’s drugs legalisation lobby in their guise as high-minded public health professionals, and instead started to look at the research on the real costs of legalisation. They could start here with detailed examination of the projected costs of legalisation in Illinois.
Assuming that regulation of this far from ordinary commodity is possible at all, the Illinois working paper arrives at an estimated cost to the state of $670.5million, far outweighing the tax revenue projections of approximately $566million.
It’s not as simple as they think. It’s no panacea, much as some would like to believe.