Decriminalization of drugs would allow governments to better regulate access to and distribution of drugs. Alcohol and tobacco are legal in many societies, but still effectively regulated: they are not easily accessible to minors, they are not allowed in the workplace, etc. A society-wide discussion about the health effects of certain drugs (e.g. the harms of sugar) can lead to incentives to reduce the use of these legal drugs or to offer less harmful alternatives. So, should drugs be legalised in the UK? There are a number of professionals who are often argued by those who say they should. It should be borne in mind that some proponents of legalization distinguish between different types of drugs. For example, there is a Lib Dem campaign to legalize drugs, but that only applies to cannabis. Siobhan Benita, the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor of London in 2021, is campaigning for the British capital to become the first city in the country with a legal and regulated market for cannabis. She says it would help break the grip of criminal gangs and protect London`s youth.
There are legal recreational drugs such as alcohol and tobacco and other recreational drugs that are prohibited. The history of drug prohibition is long. Islamic Sharia, which dates back to the 7th century, banned certain intoxicating substances, including alcohol. Opium use was later banned in China and Thailand. The Pharmacy Act 1868 in the United Kingdom was the first modern law in Europe to regulate the use of drugs. This law prohibited the distribution of poison and drugs, especially opium and derivatives. Gradually, other Western countries have introduced laws to restrict opiate use. For example, smoking opium was banned in San Francisco in 1875 and the sale of opium in Australia in 1905.
At the beginning of the 20th century, several countries such as Canada, Finland, Norway, the United States and Russia introduced alcohol bans. These alcohol bans failed and were later lifted. Beginning in the 1960s, drug prohibition was tightened worldwide. The United States has been one of the main proponents of a tough stance against drugs, especially since Richad Nixon declared the «war on drugs.» The «war on drugs» has not produced the desired results. The demand for drugs has increased, as has the number of addicts. As production and distribution were illegal, criminals took control of the supply. The transfer of control of drug trafficking to organized crime has had catastrophic consequences worldwide. Today, drug laws vary considerably from country to country. Some countries have more flexible regulations and devote fewer resources to combating drug trafficking, while in others the criminalization of drugs can result in very severe penalties. Thus, while in some countries recreational drug use has been decriminalized, in others drug trafficking is punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. More importantly, such discussions are unnecessary until the nature of the purported regulatory regime is clarified.
It would be surprising, for example, if the use of legalized drugs did not increase, if they were as available on the market as alcohol and tobacco products are today, with sophisticated packaging, marketing and advertising. But more restrictive systems could have very different results. In any case, the risk of increased drug use could be acceptable if legalization could dramatically, if not completely, eradicate crime linked to the black market in illicit drugs, while making some forms of drug use safer. Again, there are controversial claims. However, what is generally presented as a fairly simple process of lifting prohibitionist controls to reap these supposed benefits would actually mean addressing an extremely complex set of regulatory issues. As with most, if not all, goods supplied by individuals and public funds, the main regulatory issues concern the type of medicines legally available, the conditions under which they are supplied and the conditions under which they are consumed (see page 21). Another important decision is the decision between recreational and medical drug use. Most societies agree that most drugs, including addictive ones, can be used therapeutically by health professionals; whereas they would not allow the same drugs to be used «for pleasure». On this issue, the available evidence is far from ideal, but none of this suggests that prohibition has a significant impact on drug use. States and countries that decriminalize or medicalize see little or no increase in drug use.