Politicians who support softer drugs laws are ignorant of the facts and implications that such a change would have on society, a leading researcher has warned.
Kathy Gyngell, a research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, said that leaders such as Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have been persuaded that a regulated and taxed system of drugs legalisation would “sanitise” drug use.
But Gyngell warned that the move would actually “normalise” drug taking, pointing to results from previous liberalisation trials.
She highlighted an experiment in Brixton in 2001 when police were told to ignore cannabis offences – it resulted in a “dramatic rise in hospital admissions of 15-34 year old Class A drug users”.
And when Britain downgraded cannabis from a Class B to Class C drug in 2004, there was a surge in the number of children aged 15 and under being treated for mental illness. In the three years following the move, the number of cannabis addicts receiving NHS treatment doubled.
Kathy Gyngell referred to figures from the US, where 21 states legalised cannabis for medical use.
She said, “teenage drug use doubled to much higher levels than here and was accompanied by a halving of teens’ perception of harm”.
She added that smoking cannabis greatly enhances cancer risks and affects the adolescent brain.
She said: “In these newly competitive times, the last thing this generation need is a drugs legalising experiment foisted on them by ageing libertarians.”
Gyngell also criticised reports from the pro-drugs lobby which appear to indicate that legalising drugs would be financially beneficial.
She said they do not address its full costs: “The social and economic costs of departing from current policy – whether bearing on public health, mental health, education, productivity or crime (including drug driving) policing, wide scale drug testing or bureaucracy – are all unknowns.”
And she said it is not just “deceitful” but “downright irresponsible” to use this argument for drugs legalisation.
A petition calling for a parliamentary debate about Britain’s drug laws reached over 100,000 signatures last week, after high-profile celebrities such as Russell Brand and Richard Branson added their names to the campaign.
Conservative Home columnist, Peter Franklin, warned that legalised cannabis “will find its way to children”.
He pointed to a recent New York Times article about the US state of Colorado, where the sale of cannabis is now legal for both medical and recreational use.
The article said, “the popularity of edible marijuana has alarmed parents’ groups, schools and some doctors, who say the highly concentrated snacks are increasingly landing in the hands of teenagers looking for a sweet, discreet high, or of children too young to know the difference between pot brownies and regular ones”.