2011 is to be the year that the Huffington Post makes its debut in the UK.
The year also marks an anniversary on both sides of the north Atlantic, that being 40 years since both the UK and USA began what Governments in both countries now call the "War On Drugs". In the USA, then President Richard Nixon used that phrase from the outset, while in the UK, 1971 marked the passing of the Misuse Of Drugs Act.
Forty years on, and any sensible analysis of this particular war can only conclude that it was long ago lost: despite the law enforcement resources committed to combating drug supply and prosecuting drug use, illegal drugs are more plentiful than ever. The UK target of taking 50% of such substances off the streets is a joke, with the actual figure more like 1%.
Moreover, control of production, shipping, distribution and sale of illegal drugs has been surrendered to organised criminality. Corrupt and corruptible officials are identified, recruited and used to ensure that the smugglers' cargo passes through Customs and Police checks unharmed. The occasional interception of shipments is mere consolation, as in a dog being thrown a bone.
But the influence of criminality on the trade is at its most crucial when drugs are prepared for sale: quality control is non-existent, with routine adulteration of substances to increase quantity and thus revenue. Many adulterants make the original drug far more harmful: small wonder that many addicts end up physically scarred, or more often dead.
The approach taken by the UK and USA has conspicuously failed. Yet the Fourth Estate is unwilling to have the debate in which this failure can be admitted, the problem debated, and a path forged towards a new approach. And this is in large part due to the few media players that are able to shout loudest, frighten their readers and viewers, and thus cow and bully politicians.
Governments are unable to admit their failure - no politician likes to admit they fouled up - and in the meantime, the whole sorry charade continues. A growing number of countries has decriminalised drug use: this is a useful start. But we need to move to treating the problem as a health issue, and getting organised criminality out of the equation.
I started blogging about the failure of the "War On Drugs" almost two years ago. It still feels rather like hitting one's head against a wall when returning to the subject, but return to it we must. We have fought and lost a war, and yet no-one even donned a uniform. It is as bizarre and pointless as it is unnecessary.
And it has to stop.
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