A call to legalise drugs by the outgoing president of the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has been blasted by critics who say legalisation would simply result in more people taking drugs.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore suggested that weakening the law on dangerous substances such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis would “reduce crime and improve health”.
But critics warned that Sir Ian’s views were misguided because they would encourage drug use.
David Green, director of thinktank Civitas, said: “Legalising drugs would simply result in a lot more people taking them.
“The general consensus from research is that drug-taking is part of a dysfunctional life which involves crime. The argument that crime rates would go down is misguided.”
He added: “I cannot see how public health would be improved.
“If it is a lot easier to take substances, there would be more people on drugs and therefore requiring medical attention – so overall health rates would deteriorate.”
Anders Ulstein, of the Europe Against Drugs pressure group, said: “Legalising drug use will not solve any problems.
“Lots of people appear to have a very ideological stance on this without coming up with replacement methods of stopping people from taking drugs. This debate is very harmful.”
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, added: “Even countries which have taken a soft approach on drugs are now realising it has been a disaster.
“Holland has started to close down its cannabis cafes and Sweden saw the error of adopting a liberal drugs policy and implemented a zero tolerance approach.
“It subsequently has one of the lowest levels of illegal drug use in the world.”
Mr Hart also criticised the BBC’s one-sided coverage of the issue. He said the BBC had failed to give equal prominence to opposing views.
It is not the first time the BBC has been accused of pushing liberal causes. In February a cross party group of MPs accused the BBC of showing “persistent bias” in favour of euthanasia.
Mr Hart said: “For years the BBC has been giving substantial airtime to organisations campaigning for liberal laws and only showing one side of the argument.”
Sir Ian, in a parting e-mail to 25,000 RCP members, wrote that he felt like finishing his presidency on a “controversial note”.
He endorsed a recent article in the British Medical Journal by Stephen Rolles, from the pro-legalisation pressure group, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which argued for the legalisation of drugs.
Sir Ian made clear that he was expressing his own views rather than those of the RCP.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis are extremely harmful and can cause misery to communities across the country.
“The government does not believe that decriminalisation is the right approach.
“Our priorities are clear – we want to reduce drug use, crack down on drug-related crime and disorder and help addicts come off drugs for good.”