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Legalising Drugs – 3 Reasons Why We Should According to Dr Mark Thornton

In the first episode of the Project 10 podcast series, the area of legalising drugs to reduce crime is explored. 

One of the experts who features is Dr Mark Thornton, who completed his PhD on the economics of prohibition era America. Having looked into the data from the past when America outlawed the sale and consumption of alcohol, Dr Thornton has drawn comparisons to the current prohibition on drugs.

He gives several reasons why we should consider full legalisation of drugs which you can hear on episode one, but here are 3 reasons why he thinks it makes sense as part of a harm reduction strategy.

1: Commercial Liability

cocaine production - legalising drugs

Dr Thornton claims that by making it legal and fully commercial, there will be a liability on producers and regulations to ensure that the drugs they are producing are far safer than what is being sold today.

“Having corporations having liability for their products would make them much, much, much safer…” Dr Mark Thornton

The lack of knowledge with what a drug user is taking is a real threat and efforts are already underway in Ireland to introduce amnesty bins at festivals and dance concerts for people to donate drugs for scientific evaluation.

Often times dangerous mixing agents are used in the drugs completely unknown to the end user and that is where the real threat is. He claims that making it a commercial product will greatly help reduce that threat to people taking them.

2: The Portugal Experiment

Dr Thornton highlights the case of when Portugal decided to decriminalise small possessions of drugs and treat them as a health issue and not a criminal one.

People are  fined and possibly sent to a treatment program but not given a criminal record. Since then, drug related deaths and transmission of HIV – which was a huge problem in Portugal – has decreased and Portugal now has one of the lowest rates of drug related deaths in Europe.

Drug Related Deaths Portugal

Accepting the problem and treating it has seen a huge improvement in the public health of Portugal’s citizens.

3:Prohibition Doesn’t Work

The prohibition of alcohol was introduced in the United States to try and improve their society, but Dr Thornton explains it had the exact opposite effect.

The murder rate doubled, petty crime increased because alcoholics couldn’t afford the increased price of illegal alcohol and those profits went to criminal organisations.

Dr Thornton claims that the prohibition experiment has been tested and has failed. He has highlighted a number of key factors to support his arguments in his extensive PhD thesis on the economics of prohibition.


You can hear Dr Thornton’s full interview on episode one on iTunes, Podbean and online.

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