Friday, September 07, 2012

Why I want the Government to commission an independent evidence-led review on the effectiveness of present drug interdiction policy

The present Government policies on the use and possession of illicit drugs have failed utterly.

As a former detective in the Metropolitan Police, I saw at first-hand how the policies of criminalising people for possessing and using proscribed drugs resulted in wholly discriminatory and socially-excluding enforcement, whereby the young, the marginalised and black communities were targeted, while the white middle-class users of illicit but socially-accepted narcotics were ignored and allowed to continue virtually unmolested.

More to the point, as an active detective focusing on financial crime and money laundering, I realised that by insisting on enforcing the policy, drug criminalisation was helping to pour a torrent of raw cash into the pockets of organised criminals.  The more we criminalised the problem, the more money the drug pushers made, while the resultant costs of crime escalated.

It was the most futile and ridiculous policy, but no-one had the courage to challenge it publicly, because politicians on both sides of the House of Commons were scared to engage in a real debate, for fear of alienating the opinion forming leader writers in the scaremongering media.

CLEAR, an independent organisation which calls for Cannabis law reform published an article on 27th July 2012 discussing the kind of writing being published by the Daily Mail, one of the most vociferous opponents of drug reform. They stated;

"...Kathy Gyngell is an ex-producer of downmarket daytime TV.  She now styles herself with the pretentious and misleading title of  ”Research Fellow” at the Centre for Policy Studies. She has no qualification or basis for any authority or expertise on cannabis except for a shameful record of publishing article after article in that epitome of inaccurate and misleading journalism, The Daily Mail. The nonsense she writes is based on prejudice and a deliberate intent to mislead. She publishes lies about cannabis and about scientific research concerning cannabis on a regular basis..."

The Home Office too had set its mind against any form of debate, and indeed, any informed person in a position of public authority who has dared to challenge the status-quo, finds themselves being marginalised. Professor David Nutt was a classic example.

Professor David Nutt, head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, criticised the decision to reclassify cannabis to Class B from C.
He accused ministers of devaluing and distorting evidence and said drugs classification was being politicised. Following his sacking, Prof Nutt told the BBC he stood by his claim that Cannabis should not be a Class B drug based on its effects.

He described his sacking as a "serious challenge to the value of science in relation to the government". He went on to say;

"We can help them. We can give them very good advice, and it would be much more simpler if they took that advice rather than getting tangled up in other sorts of messages which frankly really do confuse the public."

Prof Nutt said he was not prepared to "mislead" the public about the effects of drugs in order to convey a moral "message" on the government's behalf. ..If scientists are not allowed to engage in the debate at this interface then you devalue their contribution to policy making and undermine a major source of carefully considered and evidence-based advice."

My conversion to the belief that the prohibition of drugs was simply not working was when I became actively involved in the issue of interdicting money laundering, and seeking to prevent the profit flows from the narco-trade. Trying to stop banks handling the obscene profits from the drug trade made me begin to realise the real truth. The anti-money laundering laws were routinely flouted by the banks, because the flow of drug money was so important to their bottom line. Frankly, without the drug trade, many medium-sized banks around the globe would have gone out of business years ago.

David Malone on his 'Golem' blog outlines some very important facts about the drug business.
 "...The retail end of the global drug trade is by far the largest, at an estimated $332 billion.   All of it has to be banked one way or another. It get’s washed in London and New York, and the people who do it are criminals. They are also very wealthy, very arrogant, and they have friends in government , the police and the judiciary.
A report published by the Home Office in 2006 estimated the UK drugs market to be worth £4.645bn in 2003/4. Most of that £4.6 billion had to have been banked. Not just in one year, but that amount annually. That bit does not get talked about so much. £4.6 Billion a year is more than a rogue teller or two. When we get to retail in the West we are not just talking about banking a fist full of tenners from a dirty looking user  or pusher. We are talking about the people the pushers work for, the people they in turn work for and the businesses that they ‘work for’ or own, which then use that money for ‘legit’ investments, such as buying luxury property in London.

The reality is that drugs are a massive banking business. And it is also a fact that the bulk of that business is done in the industrial nations in their banks, the Drugs business is mostly a western business. It’s a banking business.

We, the rich West, use it, we finance it, we provide the laundering services for it, and we then use the money it generates to feed the financial system. That money keeps our banks going, especially in ‘hard times. That money is what is used by the financial industry to speculate with, to buy up sovereign assets with, to speculate on food with. That money helps create their bonuses and pays off our politicians in ‘soft donations’ and ‘access to decision makers’.

The drug money laundering business is a staple and important part of global banking. Money laundering is one of the things bankers do well. They should do, they practice it every day. It is not a one off rogue clerk or rogue office. It is not something the bank does once and never again. Amex has done it many times. HSBC has a long history. It has most recently set aside $700 million to pay fines for laundering drug money from Mexico.
Dig deep enough and you’ll find the names of politicians, senior ones and find yourself meeting some of the people who make sure the truth of such matters does not come out and whose job it is to protect the guilty and do their dirty work.
Drug money, criminal at the start, is criminal and dirty no matter how many times it is laundered. The bankers know this better than anyone. Yet they do it every day, every week, every year and every decade in every major financial centre and everyone knows it. It could reasonably be said that the global banking business has become truly drug dependent.
In the UK drug cash is more recently generally calculated by HMRC to be now in the region of £6.5 billion, annually. It is only when you appreciate the size of the narco-cash flows that you begin to get a handle on just how big and how widely extended illicit drug taking is.

Yet, most children at our schools have experienced drug sales taking place in their grounds. Many of them have taken drugs during school time. At university, it is almost a sine-qua-non that drugs are routinely available in every hall of residence, depending on your narcotic of choice. Many young people prefer to drop Ecstasy prior to going out because pills are cheaper than the alcohol they would have to buy at the club.

This is one of many reasons why the so-called war on drugs is an abject failure and continuing along this road of criminalisation is a hugely expensive waste of valuable police time and resources, the estimated costs in 2007 alone being in excess of £14 billion a year!

That is one of the many reasons why we urgently need an evidence based, health focussed approach to drug policy and for the decriminalisation of drug possession, and why I am proud to be associated with the efforts being made by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) to promote this outcome.


AbogadoNZ said...

I support your views Rowan. I am all too familiar with white collar tolerance of drugs and know of several habitual users who have no record. One recent example is the son of a close friend who has avoided apprehension despite the ancillary crimes involved - principally theft of tens of thousands that went unreported simply because of the social consequences. The latter element cost me a friendship that had endured 40+ years. Another is the son of an Irish 'rich-lister' who is effectively 'untouchable' no matter what he does. Personally I would make most drugs available retail from chemists but keep come down like a ton of bricks on those trading in narcotics just as I would penalise public intoxication, driving drugged etc. The time is long overdue when taking drugs should be an offence BUT we have to treat the addicted as we would any other seriously ill citizen - compassionately.

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