How should Britain prosecute its drugs strategy?

July 30, 2009

Britain’s drug strategy is under the spotlight following the UK Drug Policy Commission’s (UKDPC) recommendation that there is too much energy spent on arresting drug dealers and not enough on reducing harm to communities.

Latest figures show that nearly 90,000 people were arrested in England and Wales for drug offences, with over one billion pounds spent on law enforcement, with £17.6 billion the estimated cost of the UK drug markets.

The report questions whether it is worth arresting a drug dealer if a more violent individual replaces him.

“Drug law enforcement is clearly not limited to the traditional role of arresting as many dealers as possible in anticipation of reducing supply,” said UKDPC chief executive Roger Howard.

“Drug markets will inevitably remain, and some enforcement agencies are beginning to prioritise their resources and efforts to curb the most harmful aspect of these.

“But to do this means having a much bigger picture of the harms being created and much better evaluation of the real impact and value for money of enforcement.”

What do you think of the UKDPC’s recommendations? Is the UK’s drug enforcement policy clever and nimble enough? Or is there a danger of the police going “softly, softly” on drug dealers by pursuing more innovative approaches?


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Any fan of game theory might expect that if you “tolerate” certain dealers, then as dealers fight to be the one that’s tolerated, turf wars will intensify and police corruption skyrocket. Which, one assumes is not the result that the report’s authors were hoping for.In any case, any whiff of “toleration” is likely to be politically unacceptable.As, for different reasons, is my favourite solution: have a policy of very publicly lacing seized drugs with lethal poison before putting them back into the system. It would probably take at most a couple of hundred deaths to scare the rest of the market out of existence, and even that’s probably fewer than with the status quo – but for obvious reasons no politician could dare to go near such a policy.

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

Finally, police accept they cannot win the drugs war. Most prosecutions are from people that arent hurting anyone, just using recreationally, and because of that they get arrested, lose their job, family, end up having to steal and deal to fund there lives! it is far better to prevent violence, than arrest some person deciding to light a herb or eat a pill.

Posted by Angus Campbell | Report as abusive