Tom Lloyd On Prohibition

Catha_edulis17:48 Wednesday 3rd July 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: The Government has announced that the herbal stimulant khat is to be banned, despite expert advice that it is generally safe to use. Khat, which is chewed, is popular amongst the Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities here in the Uk. Tom Lloyd joins us now, He’s a former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire of course, and he’s now an international adviser on drugs. Hi Tom.
TOM LLOYD: Hello Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Your reaction?
TOM LLOYD: Well I’m not surprised, because this is the third time that the Government has gone against the advice of its Advisory Council, eminent scientists, people with understanding of social conditions, and police officers. And they did this with ecstasy when they kept it at Class A. And they did it with cannabis recently, when they raised it to Class B. The point really is that what the Government is saying is that they’ve now controlled khat. They clearly haven’t. We’ve had forty years of modern prohibition of drugs, and the only people controlling the market are the criminals. So what’s going to happen is we’ll have a few arrests of a few unfortunate people, who will get a criminal conviction for doing what they would regard as part of their culture. The criminals will take over the market. Their profits will go up. Violence will increase as they protect their markets. The quality of the product is likely to go down, because it’s only profit that they’re interested in. Contamination is likely to go up. The price will probably go up. And in fact you might even get increased use, because in a profitable criminal market, and we’ve seen that over the last forty years of failed prohibition, it’s worth your while to recruit new users. So the Government says they’re protecting vulnerable people. Well prohibition over the last forty years has seen the use of all drugs increase dramatically. People are not being protected, because they’re exposed to the avaricious criminal market that couldn’t care less about you as long as they see your money.
CHRIS MANN: The Home Office say that it’s already banned in Holland, in much of the EU, and there are proven medical and social harms of what is a hallucinogen.
TOM LLOYD: Well the thing about harm is there are harms to many substances that we take, including those, and I say in inverted commas, “controlled” by the Misuse of Drugs Act. The fact is that those harms are actually increased when the drugs are produced and supplied by criminals. The issue is not about the harm of the substance, because there are plenty of ways of managing harmful substances, but the criminal law is the worst way to deal with it. And prohibition has shown us that. So the Uk, following if you like the lead of other European countries, is simply falling into the same trap. And I blame the other European countries as much as the Uk over this, because as I say, criminals will be rubbing their hands with glee, now that they’ve been handed total control of the khat market.
CHRIS MANN: Do you think your successor as Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police will immediately order a crackdown, or will he not bother to do too much?
TOM LLOYD: Well Chris I was once the Chief Constable, and when I was I decided what to do. I leave those decisions up to the current incumbent.
TOM LLOYD: It’s not fair for me to comment. It’s very easy to sit back and ..
CHRIS MANN: What’s your guess then elsewhere around the country?
TOM LLOYD: I don’t frankly think this will be much of a priority, because I don’t think there’s much of a .. it’s rather like ecstasy.
CHRIS MANN: They’ve got enough to do Tom.
TOM LLOYD: Well yes. Ecstasy and cannabis, we much prefer people in some ways, if you ask the policemen quietly, and I’m not here referring to Cambridgeshire or my successors, if you say who do you prefer to deal with, somebody stoned on cannabis, high on ecstasy or drunk on alcohol? And the answer is the first two. Drunk on alcohol is a much worse problem. And as I say the police have got enough to do without the Home Office making these meaningless .. sending not clear messages, unclear messages, and perpetuating the failed and hugely costly and harmful and counterproductive policy of prohibition.
CHRIS MANN: Tom, thank you for joining us and spending your time. Appreciate it. Tom Lloyd there, former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police and an international adviser now on drugs.