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UK report assesses national drug policy

April 7, 2009

While the drug-policy discussion has been limited in the US, the volume has increased over the past couple of weeks. A few weeks ago, President Obama made a flippant comment when replying to a reporter’s question as to whether the legalization of marijuana in some states might bring in much needed revenue. But the press came back at Robert Gibbs, Obama’s White House press secretary, with similar questions, and it was clear that they were somewhat embarassed by their lack of preparation on the issue.

It was this question that rendered Gibbs tongue-tied: “When the president said he doesn’t think that legalizing marijuana would give the economy a boost, was he giving a political answer or an economic answer? Does he have numbers to back (his position) up?”

Today there’s a note-worthy piece in the Guardian about how such a move might benefit Great Britain:

For many years the government has been under pressure to conduct an objective cost-benefit analysis of the current drugs policy, but has failed to do so despite calls from MPs. Now the drugs reform charity, Transform, has commissioned its own report, examining all aspects of prohibition from the costs of policing and investigating drugs users and dealers to processing them through the courts and their eventual incarceration.

As well as such savings is the likely taxation revenue in a regulated market. However, there are also the potential costs of increased drug treatment, education and public information campaigns about the risks and dangers of drugs, similar to those for tobacco and alcohol, and the costs of running a regulated system.

The report looked at four potential scenarios, ranging from no increase in drugs use to a 100% rise as they become more readily available.

“The conclusion is that regulating the drugs market is a dramatically more cost-effective policy than prohibition and that moving from prohibition to regulated drugs markets in England and Wales would provide a net saving to taxpayers, victims of crime, communities, the criminal justice system and drug users of somewhere within the range of, for the four scenarios, £13.9bn, £10.8bn, £7.7bn, £4.6bn.”

As an aside, one can tell from this piece why The Guardian has long been ridiculed as The Grauniad. As you can read in the first paragraph, this sentence: “Now the drugs reform charity, Transform, has commissioned its own report …” might be confusing without morning coffee, something a hyphen would help tremendously, as in the “drugs-reform charity.” If you’re interested in the whole piece, go here.

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