The authors go on to compare this with a regulated legalization model under which heroin and cocaine would be freely available to buy from licensed pharmacies, with 10 percent of users (those with the most serious addiction problems) receiving diamorphine and cocaine by medical prescription. Depending on whether you assume that opiate and crack cocaine use would (a) go down by 50 percent, (b) stay the same, (c) go up by 50 percent, or (d) go up by 100 percent, the net cost of legalized heroin and cocaine under this model would be £3.2bn, £6bn, £8.8bn, or £11.6bn.
To put it another way, if opiate and crack use fell by 50 percent, we would save £14bn. If it didn't change, we would save £11bn. If it rose by 50 percent, we would save £8bn. And even if opiate and crack use doubled, we would still save £5bn, according to the authors' calculations. It is worth noting that this does not include any potential tax revenue that would be generated by drug legalization – something the authors believe would be small anyway, since drugs would be so much cheaper if the 'illegality premium' were removed.
In Portugal, when they decriminalised drugs, I believe use fell slightly, albeit not significantly.
So let's say we decriminalise drugs and provide it free on prescription to anyone who can't afford to buy it, then: we save £10billion a year; petty crime falls because druggies aren't stealing or mugging to feed their habit; police resources are freed up to combat other crime; the tax take goes up very slightly; we engage in free trade with the Afghans and cut the Taleban off at the knees and finally we get ready access to a scarce natural resource.
So ... why are we still fighting the drug war?