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Legalising the Drugs Trade: Reducing Crime or Increasing Addiction?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/27/2013 Category: Health
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,483 times Debate No: 34226
Debate Rounds (2)
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In 2002 the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee produced a report on UK drug policy. Its final recommendation called on the Government to initiate a discussion at the UN "of alternative ways " including the possibility of legalisation and regulation " to tackle the global drugs dilemma.
Why would they have come to this apparently radical conclusion? First, regulating drugs is not radical, it is the norm for most globalised trades and widespread human behaviours (especially those that involve risk); and second, the committee recognised that the global prohibition of production, supply and possession of non-medical drugs creates massive unintended consequences.


Those who favour legalisation often recommend that the government should develop a regulated market in drug supply, thereby both seizing control from the criminals and securing much needed tax revenue.

Claims for both outcomes are unconvincing. The experience of our existing regulated tobacco and alcohol markets show that the government would be quite unable to regulate a drug market. Both tobacco and alcohol are readily available, purchased and consumed by those under the age of sixteen. If the government were to take on the regulated supply of heroin and cocaine, we can expect these drugs also to become widely available to young people.
Debate Round No. 1


In 2008 the Executive Director of the UN office on Drugs and Crime admitted that the prohibition-based drug control system has created, at $320 billion a year, the second largest criminal market, displaced health policy with enforcement, caused the "balloon effect" which moves the trade in drugs around the world but never eliminates it and created an environment where drug users are discriminated against and stigmatised. Prohibition has helped to spread HIV and Hepatitis C throughout the world and undermined the governance of entire nation states. Guinea Bissau became a narcostate almost overnight, Mexico has witnessed more than 20,000 deaths in turf wars in the last four years and Colombia and Afghanistan"s reliance on coca and opium production has continued unabated for decades.


The prediction of a tax windfall is equally questionable. If the government were to levy a tax on heroin and cocaine, thereby inflating their price, it would simply find itself in a bidding war with the current illegal drug suppliers as to who could sell their drugs more cheaply and the hoped-for tax income would evaporate like morning mist.

But perhaps the strongest argument against legalisation is the possibility that it would lead to much wider drug use. Transform recently undertook an analysis of what a regulated drug market might look like and how much money it might save the government. Their report acknowledged that they could not predict how much drug use could grow under legalisation although their worst case scenario was a 100% increase in the current level. In the case of heroin that would mean an increase from under 1% to under 2%.

History suggests that that is very far from a worst case scenario. In China at the time of the opium wars it was estimated that 10% of the population was addicted to opium. What would the UK look like if instead of the current estimate of around 330,000 heroin addicts there were three million.

The supporters of legalisation will claim that heroin use could simply not increase to that degree and that most of those who want to use it are already doing so. But that is to assume that if the drug were legal there would be few others who would want to use it who are currently deterred by the risk of prosecution. The fact is that heroin is a lot more pleasant to use in the early stages that alcohol or tobacco and infinitely more additive than either of these two drugs. In time under a legalised regime we could see a steady increase in the numbers of heroin users and addicts.

For some people, making drugs illegal seems like an unwanted intrusion into personal freedom. Drug use though is not a victimless crime, even when it may seem so to the drug user. In the UK some 400,000 children are being brought up in homes with addict parents. Legalisation of illegal drugs would not help those children; it would simply mean that their addicted parents now had a legal supplier to turn to.
Debate Round No. 2
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by dina.smagul 5 years ago
We should end the global prohibition and replace it with a system of strict control and regulation for the most toxic and dependence inducing drugs and a lighter touch regulation for the less powerful drugs. The frameworks already exist (and are detailed in our publication Blueprint for Regulation) with doctor"s prescription and pharmacy and licensed sales being the strictest models of control.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by thett3 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: This debate would have been a lot better if A. There was another round and B. the debates engaged each others arguments instead of just saying things. There was absolutely no clash and as such I take everything as true at face value, and cons impact of increased use is simply numerically far greater than pros impact of drug turf wars. The other arguments made were pretty inconsequential