It is difficult to decide whether to condemn Chris Daw QC for his defeatism, or for his wilful ignorance of the true state of law enforcement in this country. There is no ‘prohibition’ of drug possession, as he claims. Hardly a week passes without some police force declaring that it is not interested in applying laws it is legally obliged to enforce. On 20 April, marijuana’s holy day, 5,000 people gathered in Hyde Park and broke the law, while police stood about. Not one person was arrested for an offence which officially carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and an unlimited fine.
This is the culmination of a de facto surrender which goes back almost 50 years. It is the users who sustain the entire drugs trade. Suppliers and dealers would have no business without their cash. Interdiction of demand would strike a real blow at the trade, while legalisation would put the distribution and sale of marijuana in the hands of immoral businessmen who will make Big Tobacco look compassionate.
Mr Daw asserts that ‘nothing will stop’ people from taking drugs. On the contrary. Japan and South Korea enforce their drug possession laws and have far lower levels of use than countries which do not. In 1960s Britain, enforcement also kept a firm lid on the number of users. Since then the strong correlation between marijuana use and mental illness has become undeniable. Many families have good reason to know that there is nothing amusing or trivial about marijuana use. Yet people in a responsible position, and who ought to know better, swallow and regurgitate the propaganda of one of the most cynical greed lobbies in human history. One day those who fell for this will be ashamed.
This letter appeared in this week's magazine.