Monday, 15 November 2010

Drug Policy Harm Part Five: Conclusion (and bibliography)

Please note this paper was drafted April 2009 and has not been updated

Continued from ... Drug Policy Harms Part Four: The Legal Harms


There is a clear relationship between violence and illegal drugs and alcohol. Indeed alcohol and illegal drugs contribute to a range of social harms. In exploring these harms we need to differentiate between those which are consequences of the substances and those which are generated by policy. We can not completely remove the harms of drugs; but an effective drug policy, covering both currently legal and illegal drugs can minimise the harms these substances cause.

Figure 11 (Source TDPF 2009:21)

Controls over supplier

  • Hours of opening
  • Location/appearance of outlet, number of outlets
  • Licensing/training of vendors/staff
  • Controls over marketing/advertising
Controls over purchaser

  • Age controls (minimum age, ID / proof of age required for purchase)
  • Restriction of sale if purchaser is intoxicated
  • Volume rationing
  • Purchase tracking
  • Licensing of purchaser
  • Delay between order and pick up
  • Required membership of group or union for purchase
  • Consumption on licensed premises only
Controls over product

  • Packaging (plain packaging, tamper proofing, health and safety warnings etc)
  • Preparation, dosage, quantity
  • Coded for individual licensed purchaser
Such a policy must involve government taking responsibility for regulation of these substances markets. This would include intervention on pricing and would allow a range of controls, as set out in Figure 11 above.  Clearly treatment and law enforcement have a role to play under such a regime but they would no longer be the key to the minimisation of harm or indeed violence. By rejecting the idea that harm and violence is the consequence of individuals making irresponsible choices in an unregulated market we can adopt a new policy paradigm. The policy, based on scientific evidence, will allow us to significantly reduce violence and other harms by implementing effective regulation and control, based on the public health principles of promoting well being and minimising harm. Criminologists can contribute to this, but only if they escape the straight jacket of their discipline and approach the issues using a broader social harm perspective.

J.M. Moore
23 April 2009

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