Wednesday, June 20, 2012

UK: Les Iverson's prosecution advice shows our drugs laws have gone to pot

By Melanie Phillips

Young people caught burgling houses or committing grievous bodily harm should be spared criminal prosecution to prevent their futures being blighted, says a government adviser.

Ok, he didn’t say that. What Professor Les Iversen, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, actually told MPs was that young people caught with small amounts of drugs such as cannabis should be spared criminal prosecution to prevent their futures being blighted by criminal records. These could stop them getting into university or buying a house later in life. He recommended instead that they should have their driving licences confiscated or be sent on an awareness course.

The principle behind what he said, however, is just the same as for other crimes. It involves a repudiation of law and justice in favour of the interests of the criminal which would be jeopardised if he were made to pay the price for breaking the law. 

What an extraordinary attitude by a public official! The principle would destroy the very basis of the rule of law. If a government adviser were to suggest it for any other crime, you wouldn’t see his heels for dust.

But drug crime seems to be in a category of its own. And that’s because the ignorant, self-serving and socially nihilistic idea has taken broad hold within our governing class that the problem for society is not illegal drugs but the law that makes them illegal.

Despite the Advisory Committee’s insistence that it is not suggesting decriminalization, this would be precisely the effect of such ‘diversion’ from prosecution. It has stated that possession of drugs should remain a criminal offence But Iverson believes law should not be enforced because, as he said in 2003, ‘Cannabis should be legalized not just decriminalized’. 

This is an utterly irresponsible view. Cannabis is a danger not just to the mental and physical health of the user – its implications in the onset of psychosis are terrifying – but to society from the user, through a range of antisocial behavior from inertia to aggression. 

The government has already made clear that it rejects these proposals by Iverson and the Advisory Committee. The question is, however, why ministers persist with these advisers at all, since this committee has long demonstrated that its domination by drug legalisers renders it not fit for purpose.  

In 2009 its then chairman, Professor David Nutt, was sacked after claiming that horse-riding was more dangerous than taking

 Ecstasy, and then accusing ministers of ‘devaluing’ scientific evidence on cannabis which supposedly was less alarmist. 

Over the years, the Advisory Committee has operated less as a dispassionate evaluator of scientific evidence and more as a Trojan horse for drug legalization at the heart of government.

Ministers may have responded robustly on this occasion but the fact is that they have not reversed the government’s disastrous embrace of ‘harm reduction’ policy, which is the thin end of the drug legalization wedge. 

One thing Iverson said was indeed all too correct: that the police are already taking his recommended approach by giving out thousands of fines and warnings for cannabis possession. In other words, the police have in effect brought about decriminalisation of cannabis.

That’s why the ‘war on drugs’ that we are constantly told is being lost is not actually being waged at all. For years now, we have had an unacknowledged cannabis decriminalisation policy.

The most likely reason why Professor Iverson and the Advisory Committee remain government advisers is that ministers are unwilling to bit the bullet and decide once and for all theat illegal drugs, including cannabis, are illegal for an overwhelmingly persuasive reason – and enforce the law properly to protect society from this scourge.


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