Interesting report in The Observer today with a suggestion from Green MP Caroline Lucas that localism should extend to decisions on drug decriminalisation.

Lucas Caroline She says:

"The current free-for-all in which anyone can manufacture, sell or get hold of drugs needs to end — through proper regulation, strict controls on who can buy what and when, and ending the criminal control of drug markets.

"I think somewhere like Brighton should be able to say our experience shows that prohibition and abstinence don't work — and we want to try something different."

It seems to me if someone is elected a police commissioner with this policy they should be allowed to proceed with it. To get elected on such a platform a candidate would probably have to be able to point to clear support for the policy from the local police officers.

The report notes that "ten years ago Portugal abolished criminal penalties for possession of drugs." It adds:

"The result, according to a study, is that drug use among teens in Portugal has declined, rates of new HIV infections caused by sharing of dirty needles have dropped, while the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction has more than doubled."

Of course the Green Party can easily be shrugged off as a bunch of hippies. But the Global Commission on Drug Policy had some serious people on it. Their report included this recommendation.

"Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (with cannabis, for example) that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.

The debate on alternative models of drug market regulation has too often been constrained by false dichotomies – tough or soft, repressive or liberal. In fact, we are all seeking the same objective – a set of drug policies and programs that minimize health and social harms, and maximize individual and national security.

It is unhelpful to ignore those who argue for a taxed and regulated market for currently illicit drugs. This is a policy option that should be explored with the same rigor as any other.

If national governments or local administrations feel that decriminalization policies will save money and deliver better health and social outcomes for their communities, or that the creation of a regulated market may reduce the power of organized crime and improve the security of their citizens, then the international community should support and facilitate such policy experiments and learn from their application."

On the other hand localist decriminalisation might be more problematic. One area where drugs openly available could act as a magnet to those from areas where they were not. I understand this is what happened with Brian Paddick's experiment in Lambeth.

I'm a libertarian but I am also a consequentialist. If drugs liberalisation resulted in an increase in crime then that would not be a libertarian outcome. Nor would it be a libertarian outcome if increased drug taking meant that those previously capable of independent living became wrecks who being dependent on drugs were also dependent on the state. So the decision does have to be a pragmatic rather than an ideological one.