The present Government policies on the use and possession of illicit drugs have failed utterly.
As a former detective in the Metropolitan Police, I saw first-hand how the policies of criminalising people for possessing and using proscribed drugs resulted in wholly discriminatory and socially-excluding enforcement, whereby the young, the marginalised and black communities were targeted, while the white middle-class users of illicit but socially-accepted narcotics were ignored and allowed to continue unmolested.
More to the point, as an active detective focusing on financial crime and money laundering, I realised that by insisting on enforcing the policy, drug criminalisation was helping to pour a torrent of raw cash into the pockets of organised criminals. The more we criminalised the problem, the more money the drug pushers made, while the resultant costs of crime escalated.
It was the most futile and ridiculous policy, but no one had the courage to challenge it publicly, because politicians on both sides of the House of Commons were scared to engage in a real debate, for fear of alienating the opinion forming leader writers in the scaremongering media. The Home Office too had set its mind against any form of debate, and indeed, any informed person in a position of public authority who has dared to challenge the status-quo, finds themselves being marginalised. Professor David Nutt is a recent and classic example.
It was when I became actively involved in the issue of interdicting money laundering, and seeking to prevent the profit flows from the narco-trade, that I began to realise the real truth. The anti-money laundering laws were routinely flouted by the banks, because the flow of drug money was so important to their bottom line. Frankly, without the drug trade, many medium-sized banks around the globe would have gone out of business years ago.
In the UK drug cash is generally calculated by HMRC to be in the region of £6.5 billion, annually. It is only when you appreciate the size of the narco-cash flows that you begin to get a handle on just how big and how widely extended illicit drug taking is. Most children at our schools have experienced drug sales taking place in their grounds. Many of them have taken drugs during school time. At university, it is almost a sine-qua-non that drugs are routinely available in every hall of residence, depending on your narcotic of choice. Many young people prefer to drop Ecstasy prior to going out because pills are cheaper than the alcohol they would have to buy at the club.
This is one of many reasons why the so-called war on drugs is an abject failure and continuing along this road of criminalisation is a hugely expensive waste of valuable police time and resources.
That is one of the many reasons why we urgently need an evidence based health focussed approach to drug policy and for the decriminalisation of drug possession, and why I am proud to be associated with the efforts being made by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) to promote this outcome.
The author is a former Metropolitan Police Detective and lawyer. He has published widely on the subject of financial crime and money laundering. He is the co-author of 'Money Laundering - A Practical Guide for Practitioners', and he has authored three other books on similar subjects. A member of the British chapter of LEAP, he is a member of the Mannheim Institute, a criminology think-tank at the London School of Economics. He is a financial crime consultant and has recently completed projects for the Asian Development Bank in Pakistan, and as an Expert Panel Member for the UN, monitoring financial sanctions in Liberia.