The case for legalising drugs
In research published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2014, they revealed that, on average, Britons spend more money on drugs than personal grooming. That’s quite a surprise, isn’t it? That British people are willing to spend more on a bag of white powder than getting a haircut. Of course correlation does not indicate causation and in this case we can safely presume that people aren’t prioritising getting high over getting groomed otherwise we would presumably see everybody at a rave looking like Robin Williams in Jumanji.
No, what it does indicate is that in purely economic terms the UK is missing a trick by not taxing drug use. Depending on your position on the left-right scale of British political discourse there is an argument across the board for legalisation and taxation of drug use.
If we first of all consider the right-wing case for legalisation we can look at the economic benefits and the increase in personal responsibility. Subsidising drug users is never likely to be a popular position for those on the right to take, with some attitudes considering drug users to be criminals and a drain on the social hierarchy. Could they ever support, for example, drug rehabilitation on the NHS?
Consider this; analysis of Ministry of Justice data shows that it costs the equivalent of £41,200 a year to house an offender at HMP Manchester. Of the current UK prison population, 16% of all offenders are in prison for drug offences. The UK’s prison population as of April 2018 is 83,334 according to the government’s own website. This puts the drug offender prison population at roughly 13,500. Based on those numbers it currently costs the UK taxpayer £553,500,000 per year to imprison those offenders.
Let’s also consider the other cost implications of illegal drugs. According to Transform - which campaigns for the liberalisation of drug laws – the combined cost of imprisonment, policing and health cover comes to £16 billion pounds per year, whilst collecting no tax.
They estimate that legalising drug use would cost roughly £5 billion, and that legalising just cannabis would allow the UK to raise an extra £1 billion in taxes. So at this point we’ve saved £12 billion of tax payer’s money, which ticks off the boxes in the right wing argument column.
What of the other side of the argument? Well it seems obvious that for the greater good of society it seems almost nonsensical to put the control of drugs into the hands of organised criminals who also often have links to people trafficking.
The health implications of drugs cut with harmful substances is obvious, and almost all research into the socioeconomic circumstances of hard drug usage links it to deprivation and poverty. Those with a lesser education, those from broken homes and those who come from low income families are statistically more likely to become drug users.
Once a person has become addicted to drugs the treatment options are often limited and laden with stigma. Who amongst us wouldn’t feel humiliated and low at the prospect of having to queue up to collect a methadone subscription from the local pharmacy?
Drug use without treatment often ruins lives, with the prospect of a criminal record ruining almost all successful career paths despite the fact that the vast majority of Britons admit to having recreationally abused drugs.
We should also consider the racial implications of drug use. In the US, for example, the federal government released a new batch of data Monday about drug prosecutions in 2016, and the statistics show that African-Americans and Hispanics are still prosecuted far more frequently than white people for nearly every type of drug crime.
In the UK, where stop-and-search legislation is used in order to stop suspected drug users, the statistics overwhelmingly show that black and afro-Caribbean brits are stopped more often than white people and that prison sentences for ethnic minorities are almost always harsher.
The case for drug legalisation is that not only will it save the tax payer billions, it will also inject a huge amount of money into the economy through taxation. The social aspect is that it will allow children from deprived backgrounds the chance to make mistakes but avoid the lifelong stigma of a criminal record, thus allowing them to enter the labour market rather than descending into perpetual criminality. It will allow for social mobility within ethnically diverse communities by removing the need for racist stop-and-search measures. Finally, it will allow drug users to seek treatment through the NHS, meaning that recovery from drug addiction is much more successful and therefore the mortality rate from drug use and drug related diseases drops.
We’re not here to present our own opinions on the matter, but the case for legalisation and management of drugs has clear benefits for all.