Despite the government's continued war on drug abuse, the illegal market in the UK is showing no signs of coming under control.
Could unlimited heroin on prescription become a reality?
Would it be less costly - both in terms of human lives and to the economy - to legalise drug use and bring it under direct state control?
Or would the criminals simply find new ways of producing counterfeits and more dangerous varieties, exploiting addicts and young people still more?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your e-mails.
The views expressed on these pages are not necessarily the views of the BBC. The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received.
If they were legalised, you would have to sell them in supermarkets to have any effect on the drugs trade. Big money, big business, big greed. Put greed and business together and you have corporate crime. All you would do is transfer the major proportion of crime to the boardroom and you would end up with yet another business arena dodging taxes and being patted on the head by the state.
Legalise them or not, people will always want to escape from the existence we now have in the bottom 60% of the UK's population. So you would only, once again, benefit the richer classes. Co-incidentally, you would also take a huge slice of the profits away from the CIA, so maybe it is not all so bad.
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth
How do the government think legalisation will help? I am afraid you cannot solve these problems in parliament, they go much deeper. I cannot bear the thought of my 14-year-old telling me I cannot stop him "because it's legal". Imagine that scenario!
Melanie Uren, Republic of Ireland
How many people have died through cannabis use in the last 100 years? NONE. Again how many have died through prescribed drugs in the last year? Why oh why do programme makers still want the opinion of the ex drug czar, he was sacked for not knowing what he was drivelling on about.
Reverend Peter Brown, Northampton
Personally, I think drugs should be legalised. In a stroke, gone would be the drug barons, the shootings and every other crime involved with illegal drugs. The massive monetary savings could be ploughed into helping the addicts and on education. So I vote YES legalise drugs.
There seems to be a bit of an "if you can't beat them join them" here, which is a very poor excuse for doing something. In any case, if drugs were legalised, they will still have to be paid for, so I really cannot see how it would make any difference to crime.
Drugs legal = less crime.
Drugs legal = more police for dangerous crime.
Drugs legal = addicts can be treated as humans and not animals or criminals.
Drugs legal = tax benefits for the government (and possibly society).
Drugs illegal = crime, misery, distrust and a lack of humanity.
Lets wake up and start treating humans with humanity. Being an addict does not make a person any less human they just become a human that needs help and not a criminal.
I absolutely believe that drugs should be legalised and regulated. Why should we make criminals out of people who take certain substances (e.g. cannabis, ecstasy, LSD) for recreation, or punish those who are addicted?
We would save massive amounts of money from the courts and prison systems. Policing could be targeted at the bigger problems in society, and the government could generate even more revenue through taxation. The number of accidental deaths due to drug use would drop dramatically through regulation.
Everyone would know what they were taking, and how strong it was. I know plenty of "recreational" drug users who would be more than happy to pay a little more even for their substance of choice from a legal supplier, purely as it would be safer. People take drugs. It is a fact of life. Society needs to accept this and find a way of dealing with it that keeps everybody safer.
I had a partner who was addicted to marijuana, he did not break the law to pay for his habit, but it still managed to ruin his life and that of almost everyone around him for a time.
Going to a shop to pay for it would not have changed the fact that he still put it before everything else in his list of priorities, and I doubt that price control would have made any difference since he bought in such large quantities that it was already so cheap.
Try asking the families of drug addicts for their opinions before assuming drugs do not harm anyone.
Tough on drugs, tough on the causes of drug taking! Drugs ruin people's lives. They should be kept illegal. People who take them need HELP.
David Newell, Poole, Dorset
Yes, do it the Dutch way.
Jan van Berkum, Netherlands
We should legalise non-addictive drugs such as cannabis and Ecstasy. Unlike alcohol, they do not cause aggressive behaviour. I have been clubbing for years and I go to clubs where people take drugs, I have NEVER seen a fight in one of these clubs.
If we did legalise drugs they would be produced by legitimate companies rather than the underworld and the drugs would be safer because they would be subject to quality control.
I have a 14-year-old son. He is at an age where he is tempted to try new and interesting things. His "radius of freedom" is expanding to include local rock gigs and various other events aimed at his age group. I trust his sense of right and wrong because it has been reinforced in him since he was old enough to understand.
Peer pressure is a huge driving force at his age. At the moment he has a shield i.e. "No I'm not trying that because it is against the law, and I don't break the law". It may get him laughed at, it may even get him shunned by some, but at least it is a reason.
If that reason was removed by legalising drugs, where does that leave him? Some would say that he should have the strength of character to simply say "NO". I believe he does. But if he can add to that "I don't want to get arrested, I don't want my parents to have to fetch me from the local police station" or even "I don't want a criminal record to ruin my life" anything will do, it has to be better than nothing.
If society tells my son that drugs are ok by making them as innocent as having a pint (not a binge!) in the local pub then I hate to think where that may lead. Keep the law on the side of my son and youngsters like him - keep drugs illegal.
Tony Rimmer, Milford Haven, Wales
The "If¿ Drugs Were Legal" programme was very disappointing. It was unintelligent, sensationalist and overly-dramatic with 2-D stereotypical characters, that only people who stay in and watch too much television actually believe exist.
Many things we do are not "good" for us - where does it stop? Should the government ensure that I do not eat too much fatty food? No - just education and freedom of choice.
We are starting from the wrong place. Why not ask this question, "If drugs had never been made illegal in the first place"?
Or would the makers have to think beyond the mindset of a typical Daily Mail reader in order to answer that question?
I would like to congratulate the BBC on the honest, fair and brave analysis on the drugs debate.
As a social education teacher, I believe it is increasingly important that teenagers hear a balanced argument from people of all walks of life.
Four years ago, whilst on a teacher training placement, I witnessed a chemistry teacher holding up a newspaper headline with the statement "Cannabis kills!". As young people know this is not true, how on earth will they listen to the dangers of crack cocaine and heroin? I recently came across a school video, still being used, in which John Craven was promoting the "Just say NO" campaign!
As our schools and of course society itself need more debates and educational dramas, I would like to thank the BBC and encourage them to continue producing programmes such as the one tonight.
I thought the BBC's show was a completely ridiculous portrayal of what it would be like if drugs were legal. It was pure cheeseball and over the top - really quite embarrassing.
That said, yes of course I think certain drugs should be legal and as for the rest, prison is not the answer. Drugs do not need dealers, they sell themselves. Putting dealers in prison just creates a job opportunity, nothing more.
The war on drugs has become a war on the addicts who use them. It cannot be won.
Would it not be better to tackle the problems that cause the need for drug use in the first place i.e. poverty?
Tracy Granger, Camden
The program was very good, pity about the debate.
It was interesting to hear the vast sums of money funding criminal and terrorist organisations. For many years, I have enjoyed using cannabis, but I hate the thought that my hard earned money ends up in the hands of these people. So is there another choice? No, as I cannot go flying out to Amsterdam every weekend. Makes one wonder who is protecting who. Some things never change.
Before we can truly address this particular problem, we need to look at the root cause of why people turn to drugs. Do they have a particular psychological, mental or physical problem that causes them to turn to drugs? Do they feel that they do not fit into society? Or is their life unacceptable to them because they feel worthless, and need to mask their feelings, and use drugs as a "prop" to release their innermost fears.
Roger Sacks, Ramsgate
Drugs will always be here, whether legal or illegal. You can NEVER get rid of them, it is impossible. So, why not stop wasting our money trying to stop it. Legalise it and tax it, and use the police to stop real crime like rape, murder and burglary. For those people who have obviously never used drugs, people on drugs are usually a lot more placid then people who use alcohol.
If drugs were made legal then we could get rid of the dealers who lace drugs with whatever they get their hands on. We could make them safe. We could educate people so they have their own choice, same as fags and booze. We could tax drugs and spend the money on hospitals or schools. There would definitely be less deaths relating to drugs. As for Alan Oliver mentioning about living next to a drug addict, try living next to an alcoholic.
Richard, South Wales
I think your series was excellent, and underlines the need for a change in drug laws. I live in Aberdeen which has high heroin and crack addiction levels. Coming hand in hand with these addicts is high crime. The system of every drug being illegal does not work, and only encourages people to commit thefts to pay for this expensive habit. Legalising drugs would not encourage people to take drugs, as there would still be the education warning people. People take drugs because they want to, legal or illegal!
Legalisation is not the answer. Money fuels the drug trade, so why not abolish cash money and make all transactions electronic. The drug trade on every level uses cash; if we abolish cash we eliminate drug and other crime and social problems at a stroke.
I feel the Swiss system for heroin addicts is one answer and prevents users fuelling a black market as they have to take heroin on the premises. To make all drugs legal would definitely lead to increased use as many more would try drugs out of curiosity.
As was pointed out in "Drugland" last week, the main drug which runs the market is money. Eliminate cash and make all transactions electronic via the banking system would stop the drug trade. Any money paid into an account would have to be explained and drug dealers would not be able to do this.
David Tuckey, Stockwell, London
I've just watched the If... Drugs Were Legal programme, and I couldn't believe the arrogance of the policeman. He should know the percentage of drug users and therefore should also realise that quite a high percentage don't know what they are taking, which puts them at greater risk. If drugs were legal, there would be regulations, and people would know what they were getting. It would be better for society as it would be controlled.
Rachael Barry, Peterborough
Why has no-one mentioned anything about educating people about drug use and its effects? Surely increased knowledge would help people make responsible choices.
Jason Hall, Plymouth
We need to look at the conditions which lead young people in particular to become habituated to behaviour patterns which are in the long term harmful to themselves and are not in the best interests of society as a whole. This includes binge drinking as well as yakking other illegal drugs. Why do they need to escape from their "normal" lives?
Drugs will be consumed whether they are legal or illegal. It is time that we accept this and rather than waste money trying to stop the unstoppable we should take some control over the situation.
If someone is going to take drugs they will find them and consume them. Short term increases in people taking them, if they were legalized, would be exactly that a short term increase. In the long term people will make informed and safer choices with clean controlled substances.
David Plews, Middlesbrough
My son has schizophrenia after heavy intake of cannabis as a teenager. I believe cannabis should be legal because of the harm it causes - its impossible to get them message out that for some people it is very dangerous - because for most it isn't. If it were legal the information could be made available. I would have liked to see those advocating legalisation of drugs to have made more of a case for the fact that cannabis isn't harmless, and legalisation would protect users.
I accept that the "genie" is out of the bottle for drink, cigarettes AND recreational pharmaceuticals but I would hate to hasten the spread.
Keep the current law and ban all promotion of drink and cigarettes too!
Ian Davis, Hatfield
If people were taking ecstasy rather than drinking alcohol, there would be a massive reduction in the amount of anti-social behaviour currently occurring as fighting in pubs, clubs and on the street.
People die every week from alcohol poisoning and alcohol related deaths, and yet I am not aware of any anti-alcohol campaigns currently active.
Karmen Martin, Leeds
I am a pharmacist and have worked for the NHS for the last 7 years. Our hospitals contain a significant number of people who abuse nicotine drugs and alcohol. There are already safety issues within hospitals because of the behaviour of addicts especially in A & E departments on a weekend. I for one do not want to see hospitals become over run with more drug addicts than we already have. They make hospitals unsafe and unpleasant places to work.
Olivia Wrigglesworth, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
By legalising drugs we will in fact reduce the amount of crime such as that at closing time on a Saturday night. Alcohol is the only recreational drug that induces violence on a wide scale. Others such as ecstasy and marijuana make almost everyone who uses them feel happy and more peaceful.
Simon Fletcher, London
Half of the attraction of illegal drugs is because they are illegal.
Wendy Leary, Hove
If an honest and realistic discussion does occur, it will occur because all drugs are under the spotlight and not just some. The current debate is flawed as legal drugs are not included.
Rodney Stevens, London
From an entirely personal point of view, I consider it outrageous that anyone should concern themselves with my personal habits.
Why should I not enjoy a little cocaine for example? Whose business is it? No one will stop me drinking a little champagne which is equally enjoyable (allegedly). Personally I wouldn't dream of taking "ecstasy" or LSD and cannabis is a bore.
In the event of legalisation, there would of course be casualties - which there are at present - perhaps the objections are political rather than humanitarian.
The debate seems to be centred around the wrong question: We should be asking WHY people take drugs and deal with the answer whence it comes - as opposed to HOW the general population could be manipulated into facilitating a political compromise, which will only serve to create the illusion of having "dealt with the problem".
David Immelman, London
I have been smoking cannabis for 20 years. I am married with two children and have been employed since leaving school. I am not addicted to it, I smoke it when I have some but may go for months without having any. It helps to relax and cause far less damage than drinking which tends to make people aggressive and causes violence. The government need to wake up and listen to the people.
Surely the start of this argument should be why so many people take drugs, including alcohol. Drugs are, on the whole, enjoyable if under control. If this isn't the case, then the government should be worried that so many people want to take them.
I've just watched the If... Drugs Were Legal programme. It was the first in the series that I have watched, and it was excellent. It covered all the arguments for and against, but it doesn't seem that we can reach a consensus on this issue.
Dominique Gracia, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
If the policy of legalisation of drug usage is such a bad thing then tobacco and alcohol should be criminalised.
John Gray, Chorley
Even if drugs are legalised there will be those who cannot afford the purchase price. They will be forced to turn to the black market for cheaper drugs. Therefore crime will still be involved.
Neil, Aldershot, Hants
Excellent! Both interesting and sobering. I congratulate the BBC on making a thought-provoking and dramatically gripping programme which clearly put all the pros and cons. Please consider making a series based on the NCB / OFDRUG characters in the setting of future London.
Deek Deekster, London
I have been on a methadone script for 11 years. This has given me a chance to build a crime-free life. I help other street users who are shooting brick dust into their veins. Many have died. People use drugs - prohibition or not. Let's make it safe so I don't have to keep on watching people die.
David Wright, Newport
The "war on drugs" has failed. It is possible to buy whatever drug you want, wherever you want, whenever you want. Cutting the supply is impossible. Drugs should therefore be legalised. However we should work hard on cutting the demand by starting a realistic and hard-hitting educational campaign. Many fewer people smoke now after years of education, so the same thing could work with drugs.
I resent the attitude of some people that it is the government's responsibility to protect citizens from themselves: Wrong! Government should intervene only where other people are affected. Drugs should be legalised; at the very least marijuana should be. Aside from the arguments about taxation, regulation, the huge decrease in property crime, the millions of dollars wasted world-wide on narcotics enforcement, and the impoverishment of criminal gangs that depend on the illegal drug trade to survive, it would be a sign that the people are taking back responsibility, and with that, freedom.
Raschid, Austin, Tx, USA
I think people get introduced to new drugs because they are forced to go to one dealer. Consequently when that dealer hasn't got the drug of choice, other drugs are offered to the user. This is where the problems start. I think weed should be sold as alcohol, therefore reducing the need to see an illegal dealer who will introduce the user to other drugs.
Edward, Huaraz, Peru
As a 4th year Pharmacy student, I would like to express my views that although illegal drug use is a large problem in this country, is legalisation really a way forward? Would the country be able to function correctly if everybody was able to access and take stimulatory drugs such as LSD? Would you, as a patient, like to be seen by a doctor or pharmacist would himself is a drug user? Also, would the government really be able to control the legal drug trade with a pharmaceutical industry bent on making lots of money?
James Hargraves, Nottingham
The prohibition era says it all. Put simply, impurities in alcohol and gang warfare caused deaths. The same is true in Britain today with banned drugs. There is strong evidence that pure, regulated drugs are virtually harmless if used in moderation, with the added bonus of tax revenues and reduced crime. The downside is that the criminals involved will always find some other vice to pursue and obviously it makes experimenting with drugs more enticing.
Legalise them. I used them when I was young but grew UP! If they are legalised there would be much less crime... full stop!
"Year after year of a "war-on-drugs" and has anything changed?
Paul Williams, Lichfield"
Yes, things have changed. Drugs have become cheaper and more readily available and the demand for them has grown too. Also, the criminals supplying them have become richer and more powerful... in some countries even more powerful than the government.
To R Kilburn, State College PA USA, the difference between theft and drug taking, which you have overlooked, is that there is a victim in a theft, where as taking drugs is a completely victimless crime, the law should protect us from each other, not protect us from ourselves.
Max, Bedfordshire, UK
The US tried prohibition of alcohol. The result was an illegal alcohol trade, massive crime growth and no real reduction in consumption. Legalise drugs, sell cheap quality drugs from easily available outlets, and provide treatment for those who need it. People who can't handle drink are called alcoholics. There will be people who can't handle drugs. Accept it.
Michael Dommett, London
It's simple. Treat drug addiction as a disease not a crime. Decriminalising drugs is the only way to remove the social problems that drugs bring to communities.
Governments should control the supply of drugs, and they should be made freely available, otherwise black markets will emerge. They should also be made available with treatment programs and assistance.
We have had our head in sand too long on this issue. Prohibition never worked and the US style "war on drugs" is not working.
It's time to put aside conservative traditional beliefs and look at the success European programmes have had with a more sensible approach to this issue that affects us all.
Aaron Townsend, Vancouver
I'll agree with banning drugs in society the day they do the same for alcohol.
This "war on drugs" is a waste of money. The only winners are criminals. Legalisation is the only realistic answer, being the lesser of two evils.
I don't see how this would glamorise drug taking, in fact I would think that buying them at Boots would be rather less glamorous than using drug pushers. Yes, people will die, but none of us is immortal.
Governments and people with common sense know that legalising drugs will send the economy down the drain. Hate to say it but "money runs the world, and liberals run the marathon". And for people who want to use the Amsterdam excuse, the ups and downs of Holland's economy doesn't make a dent on the world economy.
Ed, Houston, Texas
Legalise all drugs.
In six months we will probably have thousands of Dead Junkies, but your Grandmother will not get beaten up and mugged, your house or business will not get burgled and your car will not get stolen. Let them have it.
Mark Davis, Wakefield
In a country where the government controls the sale of alcohol, do you seriously believe this has lessened the abuse? It is you, the individual, who is totally and wholly responsible. Everybody should take their share of society's strengths and weaknesses and then face up to their own decisions.
Making drugs legal would place these drugs under a licence. A licence would give control, an advisory guidance, a management structure, a price control. Drugs are here to stay. Why not now bring them into a public pharmaceutical domain? The drugs companies could then both create new jobs and be a responsible party.
If our doctors could call and ask what was in the pill or pills then assessment and cure could save lives. Regulation can only be achieved by controlling a market. At the moment we are just chipping away at a far greater market.
Gareth Vaughan Thomas, Derby
I simply don't have enough time to put forward all my views on this subject, but I think the suggestion that alcohol is safer than ecstasy is completely ridiculous!
People who abuse alcohol are responsible for more violence, misery and death than ecstasy users - how often do you hear headlines of "Loved up raver batters wife to death"??
Yes, some bad people do use drugs and they commit crimes to get them - but why should that mean that decent law abiding citizens who use drugs are classed as criminals too?
I regularly drink and smoke cannabis. During the past year I have been arrested three times for violent behaviour whilst under the influence of alcohol. I have never been arrested whilst under the influence of cannabis. If everyone went out at the weekend and got stoned instead of drunk, there would be no need for the excessive police presence in town and the tax collected on cannabis would more than cover the extra healthcare resources needed to treat the effects of cannabis use. At the end of the day if I choose to abuse my body, that's my choice so long as it only affects me and not the public. Legalise weed - it's the only way.
Of course. For the simple reason it would end drug related crime almost overnight. Then the addiction could be treated as the medical problem it is.
Geoff Lane, Bury, Lancs
It is always people who haven't tried drugs who are against legalising them. People will use drugs anyway, so it might as well be safe.
S Walton, Blackpool
I tend towards agreeing with legalisation. Am watching the programme with interest (I live in inner city where drugs are an issue).
Barry Johnson, Manchester
Some people will always be unhappy or feel that something is missing from their lives and will look to a chemical solution, be it Prozac or Ecstasy. Even if drugs were legal, there would still be a black market. This is a problem to which there will never be a solution.
Paul Woolley, UK
Legalise one drug and dealers will concentrate on selling others. Unless you legalise and make freely available every single substance which people abuse then there will always be a growing market for illegal drugs of one sort or another.
John, Edinburgh, Scotland
More crime and death is attributable to alcohol than all the other drugs combined, yet none of those screaming about cannabis seem to know or care about this fact. And fact it is. Tobacco kills more people in a single week than cocaine and morphine do in a single year, but this too seems to have escaped the attention of those who most violently oppose relaxing the laws on cannabis.
Instead of a "War On Drugs" why not start a "War On Ignorance"? Or is that too much like common sense?
Ian, Brit in USA
If drugs were made legal then fewer people would take them. Most youngsters only take up bad habits because they are illegal, like smoking and alcohol. It's just another way of dealing with life. People should be more understanding, times change - this is 2005. Get with it - it's no longer the 19th century.
Denise Lane, Torquay
Imagine the reduction in crime, the decreased cost to the NHS (yes, you already pay the price for all the damage caused by impure drugs), and the decreased cost to the police. Not to mention the amount of tax generated. I'd like to see it legalised and some of that tax money used on good drug education programs. Some on here want to stamp out this "evil". Evil it may be but you will never ever stop it.
Since it is very obvious drug use cannot be stopped by banning, it would be wise to allow it and control it. At least the benefits would be less crime and more tax income to take care of the serious addicts. It is just plain realism without any emotions.
Istvan Hunanui, Chisinau, Moldova
I doubt whether making all drugs legal makes sense; new drugs are invented at a much faster pace than our legislators can follow. But if alcohol and tobacco are legal, why not allow other "recreational" drugs? Legal alcohol and tobacco give the state gigantic tax revenues. And they drive too many people into trouble, but this is apparently a legal business.
The difficulty is of course where to draw the line, but isn't that the individual's responsibility?
And what is a hard drug and what is a soft drug? A century ago aspirin was considered more harmful than heroin, which was legally sold across the western world as an effective pain relief. And what about coffee and sugar? And what about people who shop because they are addicted?
Drugs should not be legalised since some drugs are harmful and can damage the human brain.
Akplomey George, Accra, Ghana
I personally live in hope of seeing the current situation changing as I think we can no longer economically sustain the war on drugs and keep putting the younger generations at risk through lack of education and poor quality drugs. The large amounts of money that disappear into the black economy could be coming back into public monies - this is tantamount to being almost criminal.
Steve, Stafford, Staffs
Those in favour of making them legal should be forced to live next door to a house occupied by users. Perhaps a few months of hearing doors slamming and raised voices throughout the days and nights, continuous foul language, threats to neighbours etc might sway their opinions.
Alan Oliver, Kent
Until the first world war drugs were legal. A user could visit a chemist and buy opium or laudanum, Harrods even sold cocaine wine. The crime associated with drug use and addiction today seems to have been largely a product of prohibition. If drug addicts could obtain supplies legally from chemists at a non-profit rate the cost would be pennies a day - even if we had to subsidise it, the cost to society is less than that of burglary, muggings and the associated police and prison time. Only by reducing the price to a level where dealers can not make a profit will we remove the black market.
Crime figures would be reduced even more if we stopped calling theft a crime - but it would not actually change the problems associated with theft. I fail to see how making drugs legal solves the serious problems of drug use. Many drug users will still not be able to afford to buy drugs and will still need to steal in order to get drugs. Is the intention to make all drugs free as well as legal?
R Kilburn, State College PA USA
State-sanctioned junkies: the final nail in Britain's coffin.
Alcohol is legal and that has the dangers of many illegal class A drugs. Either alcohol should be illegal or class A drugs legal. You can't have it both ways!
Mark Hodgkin, Sheffield
Legalise drugs and tax them; imagine the revenue generated. If someone wants to throw their life away it is their choice, but making them conform to our ideal is nothing short of Big Brother behaviour. The only condition I would put on this is that if you are caught committing a crime with drugs in your system you should have your punishment doubled or tripled at least.
If drugs were legalised criminal gangs would be deprived of a significant part of their revenue stream. Turf wars would be reduced considerably and there may be less guns on our streets. Whether legalising drugs would increase the number of users is open to debate. Given the ease of acquiring drugs today it is unlikely that legalisation will produce more addicts. Those who have addictive personalities are likely to become users regardless of the legal status of drugs.
Peter Smith, Walton On Thames
Experience here in The Netherlands has shown that acceptance of the problem, de facto legalising of some drugs and care for the hard core of addicts, leads to less drug related criminal behaviour, deaths and damage. Consumption goes down.
Drugs should be legalised. Just as alcohol and tobacco are. I'm against the use of hard drugs myself, but people should be free, and most are smart and educated enough, to make their own choices.
I'm sure, if drugs are legalised, there will be excessive users who cause problems. For these people, just as for alcoholics, aid and care should be available.
Jos, Huizen, NL
I could never understand the argument that legalisation would bring down crime and improve health. If drugs were legal, they would still be addictive. People would still commit crime to feed their habit.
If you have a limited amount of money and a desperate addiction to heroin, you would still use your local dealer, rather than pay tax-hiked rates in special outlets.
Michael, York, UK
The legalisation of drugs for medical use, with previous prescriptions, justifying its use for needy cases, would diminish the black market by controlling the availability done by unscrupulous traders.
Dr Jose Nigrin, Guatemala
The legalisation of certain drugs would benefit many people including those that are opposed to it. This would be achieved by the simple fact that instead of spending millions a year on drug prevention the government would tax them, thus increasing their budget for proper crime.
Ollie, Southsea, Portsmouth
I have to admit - I'm still sitting on the fence with this one.
On one hand there are many positives that can come from legalising drugs - finance for a start, lessening crime, funding addiction clinics, making the process of buying drugs safer etc...
On the other hand, drugs are very dangerous and I would worry about the glamorising of taking them. Would I take drugs if they were legal? Would I be more encouraged to because they are readily available? If drink were illegal, would so many of us end up having a quick pint to de-stress on a Friday night?
I need more convincing before I can commit to a clear yes or no.
Legalise drugs... then tax them!
I have worked in the drugs field for a year now. What often isn't grasped in any debate is the fact that it is often easier to score than it is to access treatment. The real problem lies with the "Mr Bigs" of the drugs world: those people who will not be touched by the latest police initiative aimed at ridding our streets of drug dealers. For every one of those we put away there are at least ten waiting to take their place.
Legalising drugs would put a stop to this trade. Prohibition doesn't work - all it does is provide "entrepreneurs" with an opportunity to make money at the expense of others. Far more violence, far more criminal damage, is committed under the influence of alcohol than drugs, yet we are heading in completely the opposite direction over the use and supply of alcohol.
Clive Jekyll, Rushden, Northants
Legalising drugs will not increase the total harm. It is much more likely, in fact, to reduce the total harm, especially because of the consequent reduction in organised crime, as well as deal a blow to a number of social misconceptions. In terms of trend analysis, it is clear that prohibition of any substance in demand does not work. If there are societal consequences for the use of said substance, it must be managed by society, not prohibited.
If I didn't know any better, I would think that the prohibition lobbyists were working for organised crime. If it wasn't for the cost, both in lives and in the economic well-being of many of the poorest people of society, it would be farcical.
Michael Ansley, Guildford
One can see an argument for the legalisation of marijuana. It's less harmful than alcohol and I'm sure a few giggly people on a Saturday night is better than drunken enraged people. But there are some drugs, such as all the rest of them, especially LSD, that absolutely should not ever be made anything other than really, really hard to get hold of. The problem with drugs is they make you feel absolutely wonderful. But it's false. You only start to realise the cost when it's too late.
Dave Hands, Birmingham
Have we learned nothing from the prohibition era in the US? The current legislation has only delivered the recreational drugs market into the hands of organised crime. It has not achieved its aim of reducing drug misuse. Better education and harm reduction policies, though welcome, only have a marginal effect. We need some courage from the Government in addressing this issue.
Ray Russell, Dundee
Cannabis should be made legal. If people could buy cannabis from Dutch style coffee shops they wouldn't have to go to dealers who may offer harder drugs.
Laurence Moss, Liverpool, England
Society would come to a halt if hard drugs were legalised - insane suggestion!
Alcohol is legal and widespread; look at the problems alcohol causes. If drugs, which are far more dangerous, were made legal, they would definitely be more available, affordable and more widespread. Imagine the effects: more suicides, more road accidents, more crime. Legalising drugs sounds like an easy option for the government, which should be there to protect us.
Anthony Price, Cardiff
I've always felt the current drug laws are totally stupid. If someone is sat at home taking drugs, what has it got to do with anyone else? As long as they are treated in the same sort of way as alcohol (ie don't drive when you're on drugs), I can't see why it would be an issue.
Why on earth should criminal elements be making all the money from the drugs trade? It's totally senseless. It's never going to be possible to stop people taking drugs so why spend time on a lost cause? Also with state controlled prescriptions, you'd know exactly what you were getting both with regards to its strength and its purity and so there wouldn't be issues with "bad" pills.
Adrian Harris, UK
Absolutely not. What we actually need to do is channel more resources and energy into defeating this evil.
Some people will argue that we have other drugs that are legal eg alcohol. I would say and yes look at the harm that causes, let's not add another item to the menu of self destruction. Others will argue that we can't win - what a totally defeatist attitude.
Too often in recent years has this country taken the easy option, in my experience the easy option is usually the wrong one. Further, the function of law is to protect people not only from those that would prey on the weak but it must also act to protect people from themselves.
Using drugs mostly harms the user. Trying to get money to buy drugs harms everybody - and the organised crime that supplies drugs is a social disaster.
Legalise drugs, do it properly, do it now. Time to call time on organised crime!
Simon Richardson, London, UK
In an age when we are working to marginalise and socially exclude users of nicotine through bans on public smoking, and to some extent alcohol, through the enforcement of drink driving laws, it is totally inconsistent to liberalise our laws and attitudes to recreational drug use. All you have to do is look at an aging rocker and witness his inability to form two coherent syllables to realise that long term drug use is a very bad idea.
Thank you Danny for a sane voice in a backward, badly educated and paranoid GB. Incidentally, I stopped taking all drugs apart from alcohol three years ago when I was 24 because I just grew out of it. Like most of my friends.
Thomas Rowland-Hill, London
If drugs were legalised then we wouldn't have the problems of people dying through the dealers "cutting" drugs with harmful stuff, and each dose purchase from specialised pharmacies would be regulated, therefore, no accidental overdoses. We tax payers wouldn't have to stump up the cash for housing the dealers in prisons and, as a whole, the drug-taking public wouldn't be treated as "dirty" and "seedy". It's just another addiction, the same as tobacco and alcohol. It is prohibition that makes it dangerous, as was alcohol before that was legalised.
Despite lambasting the failure of the current prohibitionist approach, Danny Kushlick offers no evidence that legalisation would solve any of the problems associated with the drug culture. In an issue of this nature, surely we need to look at the benefits a change in the law might bring, rather than simply reacting against the failures of existing legislation.
Legalising drugs is a drastic step, and one that cannot easily be reversed if it proves ill-advised, so we owe it to society to be cautious in supporting it. It's time to break away from the bipolar "lock 'em up"/"legalise" arguments and seek a third way to tackle the root causes of drug abuse and hence restrict demand.
Philip Bowles, High Wycombe
Yes, sell drugs on the high street cheaply. This will free the police to fight real crime. There will always be weak people who will use drugs regardless of the law, and if they want to kill themselves, fine, we should let them, instead of throwing good money after bad trying to stop them.
Dudley, Blackburn, Lancashire, UK
The problem is that we have never had a proper debate on the issue. Politicians just assume that "most right minded people" would like them illegal. So I say make them legal and tax and control them the same as alcohol and tobacco. Use the income generated for hard hitting advertising campaigns outlining the risks.
Those against legalisation say that it would be a tremendously risky experiment that could go seriously and irreparably wrong. The fact is that there is an experiment already underway, which was started in the 1950s. It has created a catastrophic problem where one didn't exist before and must be stopped before it ends in the disintegration of society as we know it. It's called prohibition.
Guy Matthews, UK
Both of the arguments presented missed what for me is the fundamental reason why a victim-less crime such as this should be decriminalised freedom to choose. What we choose to put in our bodies is nobody else's business. Furthermore, legal or not, we still do it.
Nick Stutley, UK
What the government doesn't know, or what the government doesn't want to know, is that there are millions of people out there who all enjoy getting high and getting out of it for a while. Most of these people are honest, everyday people who would pass you in the street. They do their usual job, Monday to Friday, pay their taxes like everyone else, but, instead of smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol they prefer to do something else, they like taking chemicals and getting high!
What harm are these people doing? It seems they're not doing anyone any harm, and if the government were to screen these drugs and supply them, they could tax them, just as they do alcohol and tobacco, and make sure that the supplies are pure for the people.
Charlie Mitchell, St Helens
Ahead of the programme and debate this evening, it is my understanding that a significant amount of the harm caused by drugs comes not from the drugs themselves but from extras that are mixed into it in order to pad it out. Regulation would remove these impurities and ensure the majority of produce does not cause the harmful effects that people are concerned about.
I would also point out that substance use and substance abuse are very different things and no-one would advocate the latter. In the City of London a huge number of people use drugs recreationally with no detriment to their work or lives.
Make all drugs legal - it will wipe out the dealers, the black market, and the crime associated with drug use. The drugs could be taxed therefore bringing money into the economy. People who want to experiment with drugs will do so whether they are legal or not, and drugs available from a pharmacy will not contain potentially dangerous contaminants.
I have done drugs in one form or another for 16 years and have now grown out of it unscathed.
Legalisation of drugs will remove the chance of kids getting supplied. We can introduce some really draconian laws for illegal dealing that will actually protect children, more than today's current ineffective laws do.
You cannot curb demand. People have always wanted to escape reality, they just want to get high in one form or another.
The fact that for some perverse reason governments have seen to distinguish between all illegal drugs and alcohol and cigarettes is a disgrace that needs urgent review and has done for at least the last 16 years.
Paul Baker, Hove UK
Of course they should be legalised. They should be treated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco - it's your lookout if you abuse them and get lung cancer or cirrhosis as a result, and no-one has any time for drunk drivers. Sales of drugs could have a tax levied, which could raise more money to help the NHS deal with the consequences of abuse. Organised crime would take a huge hit, drug-related crime would nosedive, there would be a massive saving of police resources... bring it on!
I totally agree with the view that prohibition doesn't work. It penalises end users and usually the poorest among them. How many coke-snorting lawyers or accountants end up in jail for burglary? If drugs were available on prescription and in licensed premises (like our favourite drug, alcohol) burglary and other property-related crime rates would plummet, and we'd raise tax revenues instead of spending billions fighting a "war on drugs" we can't win.
There might be attendant risks, but even in the worst case scenario, legalisation can't possibly be more harmful to society than the horrendous cost of prohibition.
Stevie, Stoke, UK
If drugs were legal it would be the worst ever thing to happen to this country. I have a two-year-old son - I hope he is going to be sensible enough not to take drugs when he's older but you never know. I just don't want them legalised so he can walk into a shop and say "20 B&H and a gram of coke". This country would spiral out of control if that was the case.
The drug dealers with their fancy cars and live-fast life-style are a scourge and a poison in their own right. In many areas they are the people kids try to emulate. It's a get-rich-quick attitude that fuels them and they in turn must find the marks who become dependent on the "product" and so it goes on. Take away the "product", take away the source of their income and they will be left with nothing.
Steve Ambrose, Southport
There are good points stated on both sides. Personally I prefer legalisation as it controls the purity of the substances involved and would increase safety levels. People do take drugs and will abuse them, that has been true for thousands of years, but civilisation hasn't collapsed as a result. The argument for prohibition states that it would drive some of the market underground and that the drugs barons would still work. How can it if the government are the ones buying it wholesale?! Have a referendum on the issue and abide by the results!
Thomas Hunt, Leeds
Just reading the comments of the "for" writer made me very angry. Does he really think that legalising drugs will stop addicts having to steal to pay for their habit? And I'm still unsure as to why anyone has a clinical reason to get off their face.
I do agree that legalisation does go some way to educating about safer ways to use drugs. I've lived in Amsterdam for five years and the only person I ever met here that was hooked on marijuana was English. In London practically everyone I knew was smoking it more than they really should have been. But I don't think it should make drugs like ecstasy and cocaine OK to take recreationally.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex UK
Legalised drugs would ultimately continue to damage the lives of the users. But by removing the need to deal with criminal suppliers, users would have less need to steal to finance their habits.
Drug problems? Yes. But drug-related crime? Much reduced.
O G Nash, Doha, Qatar
On balance, I just cannot see the benefit to society as a whole of spending so much money to stop a small minority from doing what they want to do. If drugs are legalised, I suspect that societal pressure will rapidly adapt to discourage antisocial behaviour.
Mark, Vancouver, Canada
The government's drug policy has failed for over 40 years. Numbers of users keep going up. If this was health or education would the government still be so obtuse?
Daniel McNally, Seoul
David Raynes says the idea that legalisation would take criminality out of drug supply is nonsense. I would like to ask him when was the last time he bought a bottle of moonshine liquor, or, indeed, if he knows where to buy one. Prohibition has had its day and failed. It's time to legally regulate drugs, just like we do with alcohol.
Frank Clough, Gothenburg
All drugs users are in a self destruct mode. I say allow them to buy legally, but allow the police to do routine tests on drivers and revellers. Most prospective employers do this on application for employment and should be allowed to do random checks on personnel at any time. Drug users would soon find themselves without gainful employment, and without the funds to fuel their needs. An alcoholic will never recognise he is alcoholic until he does not have enough money to buy a pint. They then seek help and their world changes. The same pattern would emerge with drug users.
Samuel Riggans, Glasgow
This is the most sensible thing I have seen about drugs for a long time. Prohibition of drugs causes huge problems. Legalising, controlling and taxing the use of all social drugs in the same manner as tobacco and alcohol would lead to massive benefits. Crime and associated costs would go down. Fewer drug health problems and costs for the NHS. Loads of popular tax revenues. With such a win-win situation, what will our politicians do? Nothing, I suspect.
Iain, Cambridge, UK
At the moment the gangsters have the whole market. If we can move even a part of that market to a legal regulated framework, that will benefit both the customers and the police.
Brian Milner, London UK
Legalising drugs would be a profound attack on public health and would be extremely irresponsible.
Legalising cannabis would lead to an increase in lung cancers, cocaine would lead to increases in coronary heart problems, ecstasy has been linked to Parkinson's and all drugs, including alcohol, can, in sustained doses, lead to psychological problems including depression and at worst schizophrenia.
Taking ecstasy isn't like having a pint of lager. It is a drug that DIRECTLY changes and alters the mechanics of the brain. Lager, needless to say, doesn't have that direct effect on the brain. Lager doesn't effect serotonin levels.
We cannot unleash this on society, we can just about handle alcohol.
Both parties put forward compelling arguments. It is difficult to pick between the two. I believe that as with every debate there is too much taking sides. If David and Danny got together and put away their extremist ideas then maybe a compromise could be achieved. That is something I would like to see. Put forward a useful proposal to the public based on both your ideas.
Jack Gilbert, Kingston
The war on drugs is unwinnable. That much is now obvious. So a new tactic is called for and that, surely, must involve legalisation and regulation. Personally I abhor that thought but it has now reached the point where nearly all property crime is perpetrated to fund drug habits. Enough is enough.
"The global drugs market is only dwarfed by oil and arms." Hmm, look at the problems that they have caused over the decades. Enough said!
Clare, New York City
Obtaining drugs of any sort is so ridiculously easy that they are effectively freely available as it is. Millions of pounds of tax payers money are spent on completely ineffectiective attempts to restrict supply, whilst the criminal fraternity enjoys vast profits and the public bears the cost of drug related crime.
If the government controlled the supply and distribution of drugs all three issues would be addressed. Yes, there would be junkies, yes, people would die from taking drugs, but this is happening already. I do not believe that significantly more people would take drugs if they were legal - the illegality of them at present is in no way a barrier to anyone that wants to indulge.
Year after year of a "war-on-drugs" and has anything changed?
Paul Williams, Lichfield