By Edward Ellison
Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
Daily Mail (UK) March 10 1998
As a former drugs squad chief I’ve seen too may youngsters die. I’m determined my children don’t get hooked – which is why I want all drugs legalised.
Seven years of my life was spent in Scotland Yard anti-drugs squad, four as its head. I saw the misery that drug abuse can cause. I saw at first hand the squalor, the wrecked lives, the deaths.
And I saw, and arrested when I could, the people who do so well out of drugs; the dealers, the importers, the organisers. I saw the immense profits they were making out of human misery, the money laundering, the crime syndicates they financed.
They were running a business – a hugely profitable business where mark-ups were immense, where they had a captive market, and where they paid no taxes on their profits.
Later, in the murder squad, I saw the drugs-related killings. And as ‘crime manager’ of London police stations, I saw the knock-on crime: the muggings, break-ins and burglaries to which addicts resort to pay for their drugs. I had a professional interest in stopping all this.
Now I am retired, I have the strongest of personal vested interests in reducing drug use. I have two children at a vulnerable age and I will do anything in my power to keep them from the clutches of the drug barons, and to keep them from abusing drugs.
So when I now say “let us legalise drugs”, I hope I will not be accused of being tolerant of the evils that drugs cause, or soft on the thugs and violent criminals who push drugs, wreck lives, and are imperilling our society.
I say legalise drugs because I want to see less drug abuse, not more. And I say legalise drugs because I want to see the criminals put out of business.
I learned one thing in those years: we all pay for drugs. The true cost of every drug deal falls on the public. Muggings, cars broken into, houses burgled – if you have suffered, the odds are that the goods you lost were used to pay for drugs. The money they fetched went into the hands of the drug barons.
More than half the victims of theft are victims of drug crime. The huge profits the drug-pushers make come from your pocket and mine. Everyone who pays increased insurance premiums is doing so, indirectly, for that same reason.
We have attempted prohibition. Police forces used to target the end-user. All that happened was that courts and laboratories became clogged with thousands of cases of small, individual users, and a generation of young people came to think of the police as their enemies. There were no resources left to fight other crime.
In sheer self-defence, senior police then concentrated on the supply chain – the pushers – and tolerated possession. End-users were let off with a caution. It saved court and laboratory time, reduced friction between police and young people, but gave us the worst of both worlds: a high crime rate and high profits for the criminals.
If prohibition is the right policy, why hasn’t it worked? drug use is now part of the social life of around half of our children. From cannabis to registered heroin addiction, drug use is growing.
Police and Customs have had their successes but each large seizure they make merely drives up the price on the street, guaranteeing even higher profits for the criminals.
Quite obviously, prohibition has failed.
Demand and supply are increasing. The pushers make profits that are quite obscene. And as the stakes get higher, the violence more vicious. It means attempts to corrupt the legal system, grievous personal injury and even murder.
Why does drug gang violence occur? Because criminals fight to expand their trade and make more money. They have a monopoly business and a captive market: so the only competition is among themselves.
Government of all hues credit ‘market forces’ with invincible power – yet refuse to unleash that power, or deploy it in the drug fight. Let us use market forces to drive them out of business.
We can take the criminal out of the supply chain, and reduce demand by economic means and by education. We cannot do it by policing. Lord knows we have been trying long enough.
Time and again politicians parrot one phrase: Legalising drugs is ‘unthinkable’. Yet politicians are paid to think. Sadly, their leaders forbid them licence to even discuss the matter.
The pushers earn my hatred: politicians who are too cowardly to think, or to promote public debate, earn my contempt.
They forget, those who spout the word ‘unthinkable’, that drugs like heroin were once legal, and fairly recently too. In the Sixties, clinics were allowed to prescribe to heroin addicts, drugs from reputable, medical sources at prices that were not inflated.
Today, drugs at cost equivalent of £1,000 pound on the street could be produced for the NHS for just £1. That is £999 that would not have to be found by the addicts – in other words, stolen from you. It is £999 that would not go straight into the pockets of crime syndicates.
The benefit to the drug addict would be huge. Getting his drugs from a legal source would access him to counselling, support, therapy – all the things he or she needs to break dependency.
‘Legalised cannabis’ does not mean ‘encourage cannabis’. It means the reverse. I want to see the lowest level of drug abuse, with the least detrimental effect on everyone else.
Legalised cannabis would mean that parents and teachers could discuss it with young people openly, not confrontationally. It means those thinking of using it will get education, not propaganda, and they will be less likely to take it as a gesture of adolescent rebellion. The same applies to the harder drugs.
If reputable companies, of the calibre of ICI, say, were allowed to make and sell these drugs there would be education, knowledge and quality control. The price would plummet.
The criminals would be hit where it hurts them most – in their pockets. Their power-base would be cut from under their feet. They would have no more clients. We would truly drive them out of business.
abhor drug abuse and criminal activity. I condemn a policy that profits criminals, and I am angered by the drug crimes that effect us all. I am ashamed at the limited resources available to support victims and their families, and I am angered most by politicians who claim to have no licence even to discuss alternatives.
We now have a drug czar, with wide-ranging powers. Keith Hellawell is a man of experience. He has a proper background and broad vision. Let us hope that the politicians will allow him to use it.