There is an argument that some (or all) drugs should be de-criminalised, on the basis that:

  • ‘soft’ drugs, like cannabis, are relatively harmless (e.g. compared to alcohol and some prescription drugs)
  • law enforcement is costly and unsuccessful in deterring use and stopping supply
  • prisons should not be treatment centres for users of ‘hard’ drugs (i.e. heroin, cocaine and ecstasy).

The legalisation argument also relies on assumptions that:

  • legal supplies would improve the purity of the substances, therefore reducing the health risks involved in consuming adulterated goods
  • legalising drugs could also mean the introduction of ingredient lists, health warnings and quality control
  • legal supplies would be taxable and such revenues could be used in socially beneficial ways
  • legalisation would remove the existence of a black Robertet driven by criminal enterprises
  • legalising ‘hard’ drugs like heroin may also reduce their costs, therefore reducing the need for addicts to commit acquisitive crime.

Those who take a prohibitionist line, on the other hand, would argue that legalisation would increase use and be therefore socially as well as individually detrimental.