UK Riots - How the Drugs War Fits In

The direct and indirect consequences of drugs policy are often overlooked, and it's at the cost of a healthy community. The drug war has served as a whipping horse for politics and an evidence based strategy has been discarded.

Most of us have an opinion, and many of us look higher than simple knee-jerk reactionary comments. To discuss the current situation of the UK riots rationally, you of course have to interject with the disclaimer of; "I do not condone riots but" - I'm sure no one advocates the actions of the violent few, and that much is a given.

Society has had a fragmented democracy for many years, and it can be assumed that we now are seeing this dangerous malaise come to the fray in the spilling of engorged emotion. With any riot scenario, there are those that have simply gone along for the ride and have no other ambition that to collect a shiny bounty. We can all insert opinion, we can bullet point the failings and decay of the inner cities, but we must also look to the top for our answers. Society has a habit of leading by example, and this has been less than exemplary. Banks, MP's expenses and interests, lack of accountability in parliament, media corruption, the PCC, and questionable actions in the MET within the last few months. Allegations are rife - and subject to investigations - but it still sets a precedent for a certain brand of apathy in a respect based community.

The drug war has played a part for many years in perpetuating a divide. In his book; Drugs, Crime and Public Health, Professor Alex Stevens of the University of Kent made a detailed analysis of the Ministry of Justice's data, and despite no evidence that drugs have a stronghold over any race in particular, it is perhaps surprising to learn that you are 6 times more likely to be arrested for drug offences in the UK if you are black, and you're also 11 times more likely to be imprisoned. These findings show an alarming incongruence.

Professor Stevens' figures were given a personal credibility during the BBC's interview with Darcus Howe. Mr Howe's grandson has purportedly been stopped and searched more times than could be counted. Stop and searches do little than perpetuate an already growing divide. To back Darcus Howe's claims up with figures, Professor Stevens' analysis shows you are 9 times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are black.

The riots predominantly have not been a race issue, but social disparity is systematic of an overspill of emotion. If we look to social media status updates, we can see 'benefits' have also received ample attention; the reprisal of; "Take their benefits away" is perhaps sophomoric in its application, but this is an area that needs addressing nonetheless given the vehemence.

If we assume the sweeping statement is correct and that those on benefits do take a proportional blame for looting, then we should maybe ask why such low opportunities are present in cities across the UK. It maybe myopic and dangerous to subject more squalor to areas when the drug trade presents a lucrative and opportune industry for low income individuals to exploit. With our current laws - and under prohibition - the drugs trade will hold a hefty allure to even the keenest of law abiding folk. An estimated £6billion profit ends up in the hands of gangs and cartels due to state failure to control the markets. A slice of this lucrative pie will be the next course of action to anyone who has no chance of revenue or betterment.

Looking to the Government's Drug Strategy 2010, it soon becomes apparent - once again - we have an inconsistent perspective to drugs. The strategy focuses primarily on so called low end users with hardly any attention given to the white collar users of drugs. Ever the theme, this once more gives a clear indication that the majority of the drug war is sure to disenfranchise those at the lower end of societal environments. We have an ever growing list of politicians that have had to hold their hands up to drug taking; the message of; "Do as I say, not as I do" is resonating loudly. The difference between those in office to those on the street? A criminal record, and once one is obtained, the opportunities dwindle for a better life. Those in power that have admitted drug taking are making sure they will not let anyone get away with that in which they have done. The further difference between a drug taker in parliament and that of the street are the presented opportunities for education and employment; we are quick to quash furtherance in our current weighted drugs policy.

No greater organisation can explain the displacement of the drug war than LEAP - Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. This transatlantic group was founded in 2002 and contains some of the most senior of police personnel who have directly seen the cause and effect of the criminalisation of certain drug users. These members of the law enforcement now raise awareness to the perpetuated harms of current law, and seek to change them. The direct and indirect consequences of drugs policy are often overlooked, and it's at the cost of a healthy community. The drug war has served as a whipping horse for politics and an evidence based strategy has been discarded. Left ignored for too long, drugs policy inevitably acts as an undercurrent to wider issues.


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