The Libertarian Alliance

In Association with the Libertarian International

Release Date: Monday 19th February 2007
Release Time: Immediate

Contact Details:
Dr Sean Gabb (Director), 07956 472 199,

For other contact and link details, see the foot of this message
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The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties policy institute, welcomes the suggestion by Ken Jones, the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), that “heroin should be prescribed to long-term addicts to prevent them from committing crimes to feed their habits” (The Independent).

However, the LA suggests that this is a very modest step in the right direction. It calls on ACPO to embrace the full logic of its position and argue that heroin should once again be sold over the counter in pharmacies.

Libertarian Alliance Director, Dr Sean Gabb, says:

“We do not glory in the fact that the authorities are coming – though very slowly – round to an opinion that we have held and argued for during the past 40 years. Instead, we welcome this glimmering of common sense, and would ask Mr Jones to consider the final destination of the path along which he and his organisation have just so hesitantly begun.

“We believe that the War on Drugs is a war on freedom. It is not the business of the State to tell adults what substances they can and cannot put into their own bodies. Arguments about the alleged harmfulness of these substances are beside the point. It is our right to do as we please with ourselves. To deny us this right demeans us from human beings to farm animals. A farmer will keep his cattle from harming themselves because they are his property. We are not the property of the State.

“This is not just an argument about defending the right to a hedonistic lifestyle – important as this argument is. It is also an argument about our right to self-medication. Illegal drugs often have other uses beside the directly recreational. Opiates of all kinds are useful for relieving pain, both physical and moral. Cannabis may help relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, and some other degenerative illnesses. Amphetamine and cocaine are of proven use in enabling longer and more sustained intellectual effort and for losing weight.

“If, along with their medical and other benefits, these substances have potentially serious side-effects, that is a matter for adult individuals to take into account for themselves.

“Britain is fortunate in being one of the few countries in the world where doctors may prescribe opiates for the relief of terminal pain. In this sense, we are luckier than America, where doctors are often too frightened to make use of their theoretical right to prescribe. But it is itself demeaning that we should seek the licence of a doctor before gaining legal access to the medications of our choice. The function of a doctor – as of a lawyer or an accountant – is to advise. It is not to decide.

“Moreover, it is unacceptable that even when a doctor is willing to prescribe as we ask, he is only allowed to prescribe from a list of permitted substances. And it is unacceptable that the companies that make these substances are only allowed to sell them once they have completed a long process of mandatory testing. It is doubtful if these restrictions really protect us from a repeat of the thalidomide misfortune. If they did, it would still be immoral for any effort to be made to protect us. It is beyond reasonable doubt that these restrictions raise the costs of research and development, and therefore that they slow down or even prevent the introduction of valuable treatments.

“If research and development were as unregulated in pharmaceuticals as they are in information technology, we might by now have cures for most degenerative illnesses, and we might now be enjoying significant extensions of our lifespans.

“Rather than further restricting our freedom to decide for ourselves, the Home Secretary should be returning to us the freedom we enjoyed in this country until the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920. Until then, an adult could walk into a pharmacy and buy any amount of any product that took his fancy. And the range of products then available included raw opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine, and amphetamine. Cannabis was sold by tobacconists, and tobacco taxes were far lower than the thousands of per cent now added to the price in the insulting attempt to make us stop smoking it.

“The Libertarian Alliance notes in passing that the War on Drugs has been, on its own stated terms, a catastrophic failure. It has not restricted the availability of any recreational substance, but has instead concentrated supply into the hands of criminal gangs. Because of this, prices have risen and quality has fallen. This War has criminalised millions, subsidised extended criminal networks, and has corrupted politics and law enforcement. It has given an excuse for the making of oppressive laws against “money laundering”. It has led to growing chaos on the streets. It has encouraged those unable to afford high prices into predatory attacks on life and property.

“And it has not even protected children. Would any pharmacist risk selling cocaine to a twelve-year-old? There are many street dealers who do.

“On simple pragmatic grounds, the Libertarian Alliance would call on the Government to join with the Police to rethink its failed War on Drugs. But we prefer to concentrate on the moral case.

“The Libertarian Alliance believes in a free-for-all in drugs for adults. This involves the right to get stoned – and it involves the right to self-medication.

“We say – End the War on Drugs: relegalise all drugs now!”

The Libertarian Alliance believes:

* That there should be no laws to control the development, manufacture, possession, advertising, sale or use by adults of any pharmaceutical or mood-altering substance;

* That, for the achievement of the above, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and all similar legislation should be immediately repealed;

* That, for the further achievement of the above, the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and all other laws regarding “money laundering”, should be immediately repealed;

* That, for the still further achievement of the above, the Medicines Act 1968 should be immediately repealed, together with all other laws that regulate what and how pharmaceutical substances may be sold;

* That all agencies of inspection and control set up to implement the above laws should be immediately abolished, and that their records be destroyed;

* That all investigatory powers given to the authorities for the prosecution of offences under the above laws should be immediately abolished;

* That all persons found guilty under the above laws should be pardoned and where appropriate compensated;

* Than any international treaty seeking to prevent any of the above should be formally denounced as a violation of national sovereignty;

* That, without any increase in the burden of taxes elsewhere, the excise duties on tobacco and alcohol should be reduced to match the lowest level in any of the other 24 member states of the European Union

* That any organisation arguing against the above should receive no public funding, and that, if relevant, its charitable status be revoked.


Note(s) to Editors

Dr Sean Gabb is the Director of the Libertarian Alliance and edits its journal Free Life. His book, Smoking, Class and the Legitimation of Power, is available at Amazon. His other books are available from Hampden Press at

He can be contacted for further comment on 07956 472 199 or by email at



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