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Legalising drugs

Legalising drugs: Debates and dilemmas

Philip Bean
Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    Legalising drugs
    Book Description:

    Government policy has steadfastly been against drug legalisation, but increasingly critics have argued that this is unsustainable. This book is a timely examination of the issues this raises. Numerous suggestions have been offered. Some seek complete legalisation, others a more modified form, yet still others want an increasing commitment to harm reduction policies. Philip Bean examines the implications of these proposals for individuals, especially juveniles, and for society, when set against crime reduction claims. He concludes with the necessary questions a rational drug policy must answer. The book will be essential reading for students and academics in criminology, sociology and social policy, as well as policy makers, practitioners and the general public.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-376-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vi-viii)
    Philip Bean
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    When asked how best to proceed with regard to the drug problem, Mark Kleiman (2008) said that there were things that we could do about drug policy that would reduce the numbers in prison, and the extent of drug abuse and drug-related crime, but legalisation was not one of them. Why? Because, he said, there was no public support for it, and anyway he thought that the legalisation debate was a distraction from doing the real work of fixing the drug problem. Distraction or not, for some it is an immediate and pressing matter. They see legalisation as the way...

  5. 2 Prohibition, economic liberalism and legal moralism
    (pp. 11-28)

    In the first part of this book, I want to begin with prohibition, which is the major policy of choice in the UK, and in almost all other countries. A workmanlike definition, useful at this stage, is the imposition of legal restrictions on the use of selected substances. Prohibition restricts production and possession, and makes unlawful the distribution of certain substances without proper authority. Under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, the major piece of legislation, drugs are classified according to the extent of harms they present, there being three classes; Class A providing the maximum penalties, and Class C...

  6. 3 Harm reduction, medicalisation and decriminalisation
    (pp. 29-58)

    In this chapter I want to look at harm reduction, medicalisation and decriminalisation, the three reformative, rather than radical features of the debate. These fit more easily into those proposals that soften or mitigate the impact of prohibition. They are less about removing controls, more often about changing direction.

    The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse Working Group (1996) outlines five principles of harm reduction, which it says allow drug use to be acknowledged, but not judged, with action to be supportive, not punitive. These principles are:

    pragmatism– being realistic and recognising that drug taking carries risk and accepting that...

  7. 4 Legalisation and crime
    (pp. 59-84)

    In this second part of the book I want to begin by looking at the links between drug use and crime. Not all drug users are criminal (except that the possession of an illegal substance is itself a crime), but some are, and the links between use and crime have dominated much of the debate. Almost all proposals boil down to one, probably two questions – how to reduce crime and how to reduce organised crime. Legalisers say that prohibition produces and promotes crime. They offer their solutions, some of which claim massive and immediate results, including a decline in...

  8. 5 The special problem of juveniles
    (pp. 85-104)

    Too often the debate about drug legalisation seems to exist as if juveniles – young people under the age of 18 – do not exist. Yet drug use invariably begins between the ages of 15 to 17 – sometimes even younger, especially among offender populations (HM Government, 2004). Moreover, the peak age of criminality is around the same age, 15 for boys and 16 for girls, so that if, as is often asserted, drug abuse and crime go together, there is empirical evidence to support it, at least in terms of the ages at which they begin (Farrington, 1997). Patterns...

  9. 6 The community, the personal and the commercial
    (pp. 105-132)

    The implications of the legalisation of drugs go well beyond the impact on crime, or the position of juveniles; they enter the very nature of society itself. I want to look at the likely impact of the various proposals, beginning with the wider picture, then looking at the implications legalisation might have for individual users, finally turning to the way the commercial institutions are likely to respond. I want to begin with an assessment of the prohibitionists’ fears of a threat to society and the individual user.

    In the US, James Inciardi and Duane McBride (1991, p 49) put the...

  10. 7 Some concluding thoughts
    (pp. 133-144)

    In the previous chapters a number of proposals for legalising drugs were examined with special reference to crime, the position of juveniles and commercial considerations. The topics discussed include most of the main points in the legalisers’ proposals. Arising from this are five questions, which I suggest must be asked if we are to produce a rational drug policy. They involve: the justifications for controlling drugs; the likely implications as far as crime is concerned; commercial considerations; the groups of persons, if any, to be separated to receive special attention; and the type of enforcement that should operate to control...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 145-152)
  12. Name and subject index
    (pp. 153-157)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 158-158)