Steve Rolles has been one of the best voices in drug policy reform internationally. This fantastic article — Recreational drugs market should be managed by ‘governments not gangsters’, says expert — talks about his book, Legalizing Drugs: The Key to Ending the War. This interview in the Independent is loaded with quotes from Steve that provide a great primer into the futility of the drug war.
In an interview with The Independent, Rolles, who has previously served as an adviser to the Global Commission on Drugs, argues that the “most striking thing about the war on drugs is its spectacular failings on its own terms”.
He says the idea behind the policy was to eradicate drugs from the globe in order to create a drug-free world by 2008, with the official slogan of the 1998 UN conference on the world drug problem being: “A Drug-Free World: We Can Do It.”
“Not only did that not happen but actually things continued to get worse so drug markets were founded, prevalence increased and all the problems related to drug use and illegal drug markets increased as well,” Rolles says. “For a policy that is specifically trying to eradicate drugs from the world, it has overseen the most rapid expansion of drug use in human history.”
The policy has instead backfired, he points out, leading to the creation of an “enormous illegal market where hundreds of billions every year are controlled by violent gangsters. So we have all of this crime and violence, both on UK city streets and around the world, which is fuelled by the illegal drug trade. We don’t have those issues with legal drugs. We don’t have tobacconists gunning each other down in the streets. All the problems associated with the vast illegal drug trade are essentially a result of prohibition.”
Instead of protecting the health of the public, the war on drugs has made drugs more dangerous, Rolles maintains. “It’s not deterring youth. It’s not preventing availability of access to drugs. It’s actually making drugs more dangerous.
“All drugs are fundamentally risky but when they’re produced and supplied through an illegal market they become more risky. People don’t know how strong they are, people don’t know what’s in them, their potency can vary wildly. All of the things that that the war on drugs is supposedly achieving in terms of protecting our health or protecting us from crime, it’s actually doing the opposite.”
Good stuff. And there’s lots more in the article.