Martha Fernback, 15, died from taking 91% pure ecstasy. The response of her mother, Anne-Marie Cockburn was unusual. She refused to blame her daughter, her friends, or the dealer or the manufacturer. Cockburn, a single mother, focused on a greater target: the government. "It quickly became obvious that prohibition had had its chance but failed," she said. "Martha is a sacrificial lamb under prohibition. The question is: how many more Marthas have to die before we change our approach? It's not acceptable to allow the risks to remain."
The Beckley report, Licensing and Regulation of the Cannabis Market in England and Wales: Towards a Cost-Benefit Analysis, grasps of the economic consequences of a regulated market, as opposed to the current prohibitionist model. This is essential for evaluating the impacts of possible drug policy reform. The report outlines the factors which must be included in further cost-benefit analyses. The report costed 60.000 pounds and 3 years to create. Reliable data was often lacking and more evidence is needed.
Legalising and taxing cannabis could be worth as much as £1.25bn a year to the government, a study suggests. The report Licensing and regulation of the cannabis market in England and Wales: towards a cost-benefit analysis, quantifies the revenue to be gained from the regulation and taxation of the cannabis market in England and Wales. It estimates that reduced enforcement costs, such as police, court and prison time and community sentences, could save £300m or more alone, with the remaining three-quarters of the net benefit come from tax revenue.
The chief drugs adviser to the government has given his strongest warning yet on legal highs in Britain, saying there are now more than 200 synthetic psychoactive drugs being sold outside existing laws. He rejected a new approach in New Zealand, which tests and licenses the sale of these new psychoactive substances, as unworkable in Britain, but said a solution might be found by tweaking the Medicines Act or using consumer protection laws.
It's never been easier, or cheaper, to buy drugs online – but no one knows what's in them, or how dangerous they are. For most of the last decade, an average of four or five new legal drugs came on to the market each year. Then mephedrone appeared on the scene: cheap, legal and available online. By 2010, the drug had become the fourth most popular drug, after marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy. It was banned in April of that year, but not before a new market had emerged for online legal highs. In 2011, EU researchers found 49 new legal drugs for sale online. In 2012, 73 were identified; hundreds more were banned.
For forty years the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has formed the corner stone of drug policy in Britain. The emergence of new psychoactive substances (‘legal highs’) during the past fifteen years or so has challenged the drug control system. The arrival in 2012 of a new psychoactive substance on the market, on average, every six days raises questions about how best to protect young people from unknown and unsafe drugs. The Government is considering this challenge and we hope this Inquiry report will make a helpful contribution to their deliberations.
The all-party parliamentary group on drug policy reform undertook an inquiry into the implications of the arrival of "legal highs" – a new substance appeared on the UK market every week in 2012. The prime minister says the current policy is working. I wish it were. But as the use of cannabis has declined by a few percentage points over the past few years, the use of "legal highs" has soared. The position for drugs users is therefore more dangerous than it was a few years ago.