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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 February, 2004, 17:40 GMT
Should heroin be legalised?

North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom has once again called for the legalisation of all drugs - including heroin.

He does not advocate drug taking but says changing drug laws would wipe out a multi-million pound illegal trade.

"Heroin is very addictive but it's not very, very dangerous," he said. "It's perfectly possible to lead a normal life for a full life span and hold down a job while being addicted to the drug.

"What would be wrong with making heroin available on the state for people who wanted to abuse their bodies?"

Mr Brunstrom said his unconventional views have been met with "overwhelming support" from the public.

Do you agree? Would it reduce crime or just encourage drug addiction? Send us your comments.

This Have Your Say is now closed. The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

If drug legalisation would force the dealers and their gun culture out of business, I'm all for it. Anything that strips these monsters of their ill-gotten wealth and power, which tears families and communities apart, has to be worth trying. But what would stop illicit suppliers from undercutting legal vendors, as they do with tobacco, alcohol, pirated CDs and software, or counterfeit goods?
Sian, Swansea, Wales

I have great concerns over this comment. I've know a number of drug addicts over the years. Often the drugs have led to social and mental problems. Heroin in particular is a highly addictive drug causing extreme anxiety. I sometimes wonder what is coming to this world when we hear the police making such rash statements as this. The root cause of the problem is not that drugs are illegal but rather the underlying social conditions. This is where our efforts should be focused - Why people take drugs in the first place. I pray that God would grant Mr Brunstrom more wisdom in the future!
Justin, Cardiff

Thank the Lord there is someone with sense in a position of influence. Can anyone really deny that to legalise heroin would reduce the majority of drug related crime. What we need to know now is when is it going to happen?
Beth Houston, Birmingham, England

Legalising heroin won't help, people still buy cigarettes on the "cheap", and they will still buy heroin that way too, whether it is legalised or not.
Lisa, south Wales
These suggestions deserve consideration. The present situation is blatantly not working. The major problem will be from the knee jerk brigade.
John Jones, Trefforest, Wales

I WOULD have said yes - at least for adults. Let people have responsibility for their own bodies. But having visited Yemen recently and seen the huge proportion of the population who seem to have become addicted to the drug Khat, I'm not so sure.
Tim Salter, Mold, UK

Think back to alcohol prohibition in the US. It cut the numbers of drinkers but dramatically increased the damage. Dodgy alcohol of no consistent quality and vast sums of cash going into to the hands of organised crime e.g. Al Capone. Its almost an identikit of what's happening with drugs. The gains (lower usage) are not worth the costs (crime, death, social disintegration)
Jim, Wirral UK

Legalising heroin won't help, people still buy cigarettes on the "cheap", and they will still buy heroin that way too, whether it is legalised or not. The only solution is to help those who get trapped and severely punish those who provide.
Lisa, s Wales

Say we do go along with Brunstrom's "idea" of legalising drugs. What would happen and who would be responsible if an addict dies after taking an overdose, especially if they were dispensed by an official agency? Would the State be liable for any resulting manslaughter charges? Brunstrom has now gone too far and I fail to see how the home secretary or the people of north Wales can have any confidence in him.
Jeff Clark, Marshfield, Wilts.

How is this man chief constable? If he read about the effects of drugs alone he would clearly see that legalising hard drugs would cost the state more in health care and patient rehabilitation than they would make by selling them. How ridiculous.
Sian, Aberystwyth

It would stop the bigger crime of supply and also stop muggings and burglaries. Educate people on it's harmful effects but at the same time make it clean for those addicted. Make all drugs legal but have treatment centres readily available for those that want to come off it. Anyone supplying children should be locked up for a very long time.
Hazel, Bristol England

These people have a choice when they start taking heroin. Why should my tax money be spent on such selfishness and a doomed pointless habit?
Suzanne, Colchester
Many, many more people die from Alcohol related problems than drugs, yet it is legal. Drug users get sold contaminated drugs at top prices, if it was made legal it would make a lot of sense
Tracey, UK

Yes - the main reason addicts commit crime is to pay for their habit. Making the drug cheaper (and one way would be to legalise it) would largely eliminate the need to steal to feed their habit. As tobacco smokers prove, you can't force people to lead a healthy lifestyle!
Stephen Lake, Pontypridd, Wales

The chief constable only wants the legalisation of drugs so he can send more officers out to catch speeding motorists, as there less work involved in catching motorists. Maybe he doesn't think that his officers can successfully prosecute a drug dealer, and the their are only good at motoring offences.
Gareth Morris, Aberystwyth

What a slippery slope this is. Drugs are bad for you, legal or illegal. Something needs to happen, but this is not the way forward.
Josh, Newtown, Wales

No! These people have a choice when they start taking heroin. Why should my tax money be spent on such selfishness and a doomed pointless habit? What incentive would there be to give it up if they were allowed to pursue their habit legally paid for by the state?
Suzanne, Colchester Essex

Does anyone have any figures for how much revenue would be raised by taxing legalised drugs? How does that compare to the NHS budget? How much could it cut my income tax bill by?
Tom, London

As a nurse on an emergency unit, I witness daily the plight of heroin users. By licensing the drug, lives WOULD be saved and drug-related crime statistics would improve comprehensively. This is not a moral issue, it is a practical and sensible solution to an out-of-control problem.
Carl, Wales

Drugs are out there - legal or not. In the meantime, poor countries like Columbia and Bolivia are ruled by a reign of terror by drug lords and their militia. Legalizing drugs will not make all the bad side effects go away, but it WILL solve so many troubles associated with drug usage today (doctored drugs, violence between dealers, etc.)
Kelly, Swansea, Wales

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Heroin should not be legalised, however excessive use of speed cameras and policing should not be allowed Especially when you have four traffic cars and one speed van on a mile strip of safe road.
Graham, Anglesey

Tobacco is more dangerous than heroin, warning that it kills, yet is sold alongside sweets for children. The World Health Organisation says "In an initial estimate of factors responsible for the global burden of disease, tobacco contributed to 6% of all deaths world wide, followed by alcohol at 1.5% and illicit drugs at 0.2%". Legal regulation of heroin would destroy the black market, allow quality/quantity control, health warnings and prevent sale to minors.
Duncan Cameron, St Asaph, north Wales

Sweeping the problem under the carpet will no longer do. Addicts are ill and need treatment, not punishment. Can we afford to keep this black market in operation? It seems not.
Sam Raven, London
I work in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, so am very aware of how heavily regulated the industry is, and with good reason. The manufacturing of drugs is an exact science. |It is very easy to make a bad batch of something that people will digest or inject into their bodies. At least if the government would legalise drugs, all drugs would be made to legal standards.
Phil, Barry. S Wales

Another Brunstrom brain dead idea. The public are fed up with his ideas for society. He wants to pass the problem on and not do what he is paid for. Time for him to go.
C.G.Harding, Abergavenny - Wales

After seeing eight young people die from the effects of "street" heroin, I am now of the opinion that it absolutely must make sense to at least prescribe the drug. The substitution road via methadone does not work and methadone is more dangerous than heroin. We know that heroin doesn't kill; it's the uncertainty regarding other content and purity that kills! It's patently obvious that the "war on drugs" has failed miserably as it was always doomed to do so; let's have the guts to try other avenues.
David Young, Pontypool, Wales

Brunstrom isn't arguing for total legalisation - we won't have heroin pubs on the corner of streets. What he appears to be saying is that controlled supply is better. Criminals sell adulterated drugs which kill their users, they hike prices and encourage users to commit crimes in order to pay for them. If we had proper organised supply with proper checks it would cut crime, reduce deaths, move drugs away from parks and back alleys. All in all it would minimise the impact that the evil of drugs has on the vast majority of society.
Maurice, Cardiff, Wales.

Harm reduction is only possible when a system is regulated by those who have an interest in the safety of others. Most hard drug dealers have no such interest. Sweeping the problem under the carpet will no longer do. Addicts are ill and need treatment, not punishment. Can we afford to keep this black market in operation? It seems not.
Sam Raven, London

I think Ben Elton's book 'High Society' highlights this issue very well. To take illegal substances out of the hands of criminals makes sense. To have it state-controlled makes sense. A lot of other crime is committed as a means of fuelling habits. Although I cannot condone the taking of drugs, taking away the 'criminal' tag of users would encourage rehabilitation.
Geraint Phillips, Cardiff

Heroin is a very harmful substance. It ought to be kept illegal to protect individuals and our community. Making it legal is insanity.
David, Nottingham

It's not that long ago when we held Holland in contempt for their leniency towards drug use. I find that we are now in freefall down the same route, and this is due to the presence of very weak people at the top. That weakness is being displayed by Chief Constable Brunstrom, and it will permeate down to all ranks. He, clearly, hasn't the strength of character to tackle the problem, and this will be picked up by the rest of his force. I would prefer to see him removed and replaced by a person with resolve, otherwise those children, and adults, not presently in contact with these substances will be at risk.
Byron Smith, Pontypridd Wales

I have been in the ambulance service for 33 years and a paramedic for the last 10. To see comments like this from a high-ranking police officer fills me with much sadness. If not daily, at least six or eight times a week, I have to attend drug-related incidents - be it overdose, violent assault, parents at their wits end unable to cope with the pain and worry they are going through for a child addicted to these drugs. Heroin not very dangerous? Tell that to the parents of young children who have died from these drugs.
Mervyn, mid Glamorgan, south Wales.

Yes. Take drugs out of the hands of criminals and put them under the control of the state. People will take them regardless of whether they are illegal or not, and the vast majority are users not abusers. This way we can ensure quality thereby making them safer for users, tax them, and slash the budget of organised crime.
Alex, Wales

I agree in principle. Specified drop-in centres, should have a room that they can use where drugs are controlled and pure. I think it was Swiss that had a similar scheme and crime rates for burglaries & mugging went down.
Averil Rees, Aberystwyth

Heroin users are enough of a parasite on society as it is. Don't make things easier for them!
Catrin, Wales

At the end of the day, heroin is a very harmful substance. It ought to be kept illegal to protect individuals and indeed the community from the effects of drug abuse. Making it legal is insanity.
David, Nottingham, UK

If drugs are legalised it could make treating addicts easier as they may feel less stigmatised when the seek help, the sale of drugs could also be taxed.
Bobby Wilkinson, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire

I think that Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom's comments are careless and dangerous
Elen Haf, Liverpool
I've often thought that the choice was between selling drugs in Tesco or declaring war on dealers, literally. Brunstrom seems to find it easier to declare war on motorists.
Robin, Carmarthen, Wales

What Richard Brunstrom means is that it far easier for the police to hound perfectly respectable citizens for breaking the speed limit by a few miles an hour, than it is for them to catch and prosecute drug dealers.
Steve, Newport, Wales

I think that Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom's comments are careless and dangerous. Although some people will take the drug anyway, legalising the drug will encourage more children to experiment. The fact that the drug is illegal is the only deterrent to some children.
Elen Haf, Liverpool

Yes. It would stop a lot of crime in the country
Paul Tomlin, Cardiff

Imagine all the drug users leaving stuff on the streets. I don't want my daughters picking things up and being infected by all sorts of diseases. We need to protect the young and innocent
Leanne Louise Smith, Wales

The risk to society of creating a population of junkies must at least be a comparable risk to society as speeding pensioners - they at least do have support from those who have become disillusioned by his bizarre take on the criminal 'justice' system. Brunstrom should stop giving his opinions and get on with some real policing (such as catching burglars)!
Gareth Davies, Swansea, Wales

We should at least look seriously at this issue, rather than dismissing it out-of-hand with a knee-jerk reaction. Placing the manufacture and sale of drugs in the hands of the government (NOT private enterprise) would allow better monitoring of addiction problems, keep power and money away from the criminals and raise an enormous amount of tax revenue - some of which could be ploughed back into health and support services.
Richard, London

Yes, I say legalise the lot. The government already makes a lot of money on drugs which some would argue are much more dangerous - alcohol and nicotine. If it was backed up with a decent education and information campaign, I see no reason why the general public shouldn't be given the choice. The legalisation would also wipe out the black market crime lords.
Dave, Cardiff, Wales


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