War on drugs ‘should be abandoned’
A study by the International Institute of Strategic Studies found that the global war on narcotics had failed to contain the scourge of illegal stimulants.
The drugs trade has spread to Africa and Eastern Europe in recent decades and entrenched its standing in its traditional strongholds of Asia and the Americas.
Nigel Inkster, the former assistant chief of MI6 and author of the study, said there was a growing revolt against the cost of the fight in developing countries.
Only “vested interests” in countries where illegal drugs are consumed stood in the way of a change in approach, he said.
Research indicated that the authorities would need to stop 70 per cent of all drugs shipments to disrupt the trade. While no figures for the proportion of the trade stopped are available, the figure is almost certainly far below that threshold.
Therefore ramping up the security services fight against drugs is almost certainly doomed to failure.
“As any doctor is told on his first day, you should not just double the dose,” said Mr Inkster, who is the most senior figure to have worked within the fight against narcotics to openly call for a review. “If your initial diagnosis doesn’t work don’t just double the dose.”
The corrosive effects on security of the narco-economy also weighs as an argument for ending the war. “You can’t do counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics simultaneously,” he said. “Our investigation has shown us that the so-called war on drugs fundamentally undermines international security.”
The report, Drugs, Insecurity and Failed States, highlights two alternative systems. Either decriminalisation of all personal possession, as Portugal instituted a decade ago, or a licensing scheme such as that which brought the gin trade under control in London in the 1700s.
Licensing would also allow states to begin to apply the lessons of antismoking campaigns which have curtailed tobacco use.
Taxation, public health messages and social legislation could marginalise drug use.