Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews

Harsher drug prohibition won’t stop violence, but regulation might

BMJ 2018; 361 doi: (Published 08 May 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;361:k1999
  1. Jason Reed, executive director1,
  2. Paul Whitehouse, former chief constable of Sussex
  1. 1LEAP UK
  1. jason.reed{at}

To reduce violence from illegal trade we should replace our enforcement led approach with regulation and support in a health based strategy

After a spate of violent crime, the UK Home Office released its Serious Violence Strategy on 9 April. Amber Rudd, former home secretary, said, perhaps inevitably, that the government’s response “must tackle the misuse of drugs” as a priority, with more expected from the police.

But only four years ago the same department released a report which found no correlation between the harshness of a country’s law and the extent of non-medical use of drugs—acknowledging that drug laws have no real impact on use.

In fact, prohibition itself causes disharmony and violence, as the new strategy recognises: “Grievances in illicit drug markets cannot be settled through legal channels, so participants may settle them violently.”

Spending £40m (€45.73m; $55.67m) on policies based on prohibition is unlikely, therefore, to solve the problem.

This is the view of Law Enforcement Action Partnership UK (LEAP UK), an organisation made up of retired and serving law enforcement officers including undercover drug officers, chief constables, intelligence agents, and members of the military. LEAP UK works with communities harmed by …

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