“Given what we understand about drugs, is current policy and practice in the United Kingdom, an appropriate response to the presence of illicit drugs within our society?” Illegal drug misuse is one of the biggest issues facing contemporary society today. It wasn’t until the 19th century that drugs became to be seen as something evil. This was purely as a result of government thinking rather than a result of drugs being ‘harmful’ or causing criminal behaviour, as there is not much evidence to suggest this.
Nevertheless, governments continue to brand all drugs as evil and dangerous for a variety of reasons. In this essay I will explore issues relating to drug misuse today and whether there is a link between drug misusing and crime and whether the legalisation of drugs would be beneficial for society. Throughout my research with my group into cannabis, I developed a deeper understanding of where it comes from, why people take it and continue to take it, and the effects it can have on the individual and society. The UN International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP, 2001) notes that the annual turnover for the illicit drug industry vary from $100 billion to $1000 billion per annum. They also note that the illicit drugs accounts for 8% of all global trade, outranking the worldwide trade in motor vehicles. Cannabis is a Class B drug and it is one of three main plant-based drugs. The United Nations International Drugs Control Programme UNDCP (1996) states that ‘The largest share of drugs consumed illicitly are plant-based products’. Because of its versatile nature, cannabis is one of the most popular used drugs in the world and the easiest to produce. This is because it occurs naturally throughout the world and can be produced in doors In 2000, the British Crime Survey found that 34% of the population of adults (16-59) had consumed at least one illegal drug and 11% had consumed within the previous year. Similar results were found for the year 2002-2003, in which 12% of all 16-59 year olds had used an illicit drug in the previous year. The authors of the report calculated that this equates to around 4 million illicit drug users in the general population (Condon and Smith, 2003). The most recent British Crime Survey found that the most common used illegal drug among adults 15-59 was cannabis, with 11% of the population having used it in 2003 (Condon and Smith, 2003) Almost all of the nations that produce Cannabis are ‘developing nations’. The UN (2001) agrees that the vast majority of plant-based illicit drug producing nations are always the world’s poorest, both in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and GNP. Morrison (1997: 127) notes some of the main contributing factors which encourage drug production. These are; weak law enforcement, corrupt officials or insurgency, and economic insecurity - especially in rural or isolated areas. Despite its apparent bad reputation, cannabis has been used as a natural medication for a variety of illnesses and continues to do so. Although there are many risks associated with taking the drug, there are also risks with taking too much alcohol or tobacco, yet these drugs are legal, despite various studies proving both are more addictive and harmful to the individual and society than cannabis. The reason cannabis is a criminalized drug is because of its versatile nature and so it cannot be adequately controlled by the government and hence taxed. For this reason it is labelled and demonised as a class B drug. The research on the link between drugs and crime has frequently shown a strong correlation between drug use and criminal behaviour (Harrison and Gfroerer 1992). Possessing drugs is a crime in itself, but it is the secondary criminality that arises from possessing these drugs which is important. There are a variety of ways in which drug use could be linked to crime. Firstly, drug use can cause crime. Drugs are an expensive habit and so drug users need a constant supply of money in order to...
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