Former British Drug Policy Head Says Legalize it All
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Former cabinet minister Mo Mowlam, who ran Prime Minister Tony Blair's drug policy until less than a year ago, has called for the legalization of all drugs. She said legalizing and taxing the drug trade was the only solution in an interview with the London newspaper the Independent on Sunday. During her tenure as the Labour government's minister responsible for drug policy, she sparred repeatedly with other ministers and her boss over medical marijuana, cannabis decriminalization, and whether even to study the possible benefits of legalization and taxation. After leaving office last summer, Mowlam called for the legalization of cannabis.
Mowlam's remarks come a week after Liberal Democratic Member of Parliament Dr. Jenny Tonge, her party's spokesperson on international development, called for the legalization of cocaine and government-managed heroin by prescription ( http://www.drcnet.org/wol/234.html#legalcocaine). These are only the latest in a series of high-profile defections from Britain's drug war, a process that began about the time Mowlam pronounced for cannabis legalization last summer and has encompassed prominent figures from across the British establishment.
Speaking to the Independent on Sunday as her autobiography is set to hit the bookstores, Mowlam said: "I am arguing for legalizing all drugs because I don't think there is any other way. You have to take the financial nexus out of it. If you can do that, you can pay people to produce it, as they do with tobacco, and tax it. I think it's the most effective way because in the end, you can never stop it. If the kids get hold of it because it's a high, they will get hold of it. Why not regulate it, take the tax from it and deal with addiction?"
Taxation, with revenues directed to treatment would reduce harms, she said. "You'd have the money from the tax, which if it were ring-fenced [ear-marked] for working with addicts, whether cannabis, pills, barbiturates, coke or heroin, you'd have a chance of beating it," she added.
Mowlam, who like Member of Parliament Dr. Jenny Tonge last week, has seen first-hand the devastation wrought on Colombia by prohibitionist drug policies, said that Colombia had convinced her that British drug policy needed a dramatic redirection and that frontline workers in the drug war around the world agreed with her. "The thing that hit me was the money that drives it. I don't think we can stop it and there are a number of people in other countries, and police and social workers, who agree with me. We have to face up to the reality."
Mowlam's remarks are a step beyond her previous public statements, which had criticized Labour drug policy and called for cannabis legalization. Last July, after leaving politics, she ripped Blair's rigid line on marijuana, saying: "What I am concerned with is the hypocritical and confusing situation we are in at the moment. From my time with the government's drug policy I have come to the conclusion that we must decriminalize cannabis. It is a view I know that many in the police, social workers and others working with cannabis smokers fully agree with," she said.
Mowlam's mouthings have not endeared her to her former colleagues in government, already irritated by other blasts at them in her much-leaked autobiography. John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, called her "daft Mo" -- and that was the day before her latest remarks. And while the government has announced the pending decriminalization of cannabis and is under pressure on numerous fronts, from prescription heroin to down-scheduling ecstasy, there is no sign the Blairites will give legalization any serious consideration. Still, the pressure mounts.