Politicians and commentators frequently suggest that the war on drugs has failed. Two of our best-known journalists, Peter Hitchens and Simon Jenkins, might agree that the war is not working, but the consensus stops there.
In his new book, The War We never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs, Hitchens argues that there has not been a ‘serious war’ on drugs since 1971 when a Tory government adopted a Labour plan to implement the Wootton Report giving cannabis soft-drug status. It led to a progressive reduction in penalties for possession and effectively disarmed the police, he says. Hitchens, who writes for the Mail on Sunday, is well known for his support for a much more hardline policy on drugs.
Jenkins sat on Lady Runciman’s Police Foundation inquiry in 2000 which said that criminal law had failed to end drug use or reduce harm. It argued for a softening towards cannabis and for efforts to concentrate on treatment of hard drug use. Jenkins, a former editor of The Times and now a columnist for The Guardian and The London Evening Standard, argues that politicians are gripped by fear when it comes to drugs policy. He says they should legalise drugs and test and regulate their supply.