Vice Squad
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Some Sensible Analysis of Drug Policy

London's Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has included within its membership luminaries such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Johnson, Karl Marx, Charles Dickens, and Tom Stoppard. Following a two-year study, today an RSA commission released a report on illegal drugs in Britain. (The report, a 335-page pdf, is available from this webpage.) The report attacks the demonisation of illegal drugs, and argues for a harm reduction approach that would move the criminal justice system away from the center of drug policy. Here's the opening part of paragraph 6 in the Summary of the report:
6 The use of illegal drugs is by no means always harmful any
more than alcohol use is always harmful.The evidence suggests
that a majority of people who use drugs are able to use them
without harming themselves or others.They are able, in that
sense, to ‘manage’ their drug use.They are breaking the law in
possessing illegal drugs, but they are not breaking the law in any
other way.
Though the report does not explicitly endorse legalisation, its call for harm reduction to be adopted as the touchstone of drug policy would suggest a regulated, legal regime for the currently illicit drugs. Given the potential benefits of some drug use, I do not believe that harm reduction should be the ultimate social goal. (If one adopted 'harm reduction' towards a non-vicious risky activity like downhill skiing, for instance, the resulting policy might permit skiing only upon slightly inclined slopes. Such a policy would not receive much support, I would imagine.) Nevertheless, this report points in the direction of desirable drug policy reform, in Britain as elsewhere.

Here's the Guardian story, from which I first learned of the report's release.

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