Jim Pickard Party leaders refuse to have serious debate on drugs legalisation

There was something faintly depressing – as well as predictable – at the comments from David Cameron’s spokesman this morning ruling out any review of Britain’s drugs policy. And at Ed Miliband taking a similar stance.

The issue has reared its head once again after former cabinet minister Bob Ainsworth called for legalisation. But is such a controversial subject that party leaders fear they cannot even raise the possibility without being mauled by critics.

Yet surely there is a case for reviewing the policy and allowing it to be discussed calmly on an adult level. As this recent Home Office document spells out, the illegal drugs trade is worth up to £6bn.

Legalising the industry could – if levels of demand stayed the same – result in tax revenues of several billion pounds. It would also remove the estimated 70,000 street dealers who often carry out other crimes and whose presence make many people’s lives a misery.

Ainsworth has experience of the issue having formerly been the Home Office minister responsible for the issue. He said prohibition had failed not only in the UK but around the world:

“We must take the trade away from organised criminals and hand it to the control of doctors and pharmacists. After 50 years of global drug prohibition it is time for governments throughout the world to repeat this shift with currently illegal drugs. We spend billions of pounds without preventing the wide availability of drugs.”

A Labour source has been quoted saying “I don’t know what he (Ainsworth) was thinking”. And thus the debate is closed down again.

UPDATE: Similar points from Peter Hoskin at the Spectator Coffee House and Mike Smithson at Politicalbetting.