Argument: Why a War on Drugs and not on alcohol and cigarettes?
It has been suggested that ending prohibition could reduce the use of hard drugs as it has in countries such as The Netherlands. Since alcohol prohibition ended and the War on Drugs began there has been much debate over the issue of consistency among legislators with regard to drug prohibition. Many anti-prohibition activists focus on the well-documented dangers of alcohol (such as alcoholism, cystisis, domestic violence, brain and liver damage). In addition to anecdotal evidence, they cite statistics to show more deaths caused by drunk driving under the influence of alcohol than by drivers under the influence of marijuana, and research which suggests that alcohol is more harmful than all but the most "dangerous" drugs. When the level of harm associated with the other drugs includes harm that arises solely as a result of the drugs illegality rather than merely that danger which is associated with actually using the drugs, only heroin, cocaine, barbiturates and street methadone were shown to be more harmful than the legal drug alcohol).
A 2002 DAWN report for the USA records two possible drug-induced deaths where marijuana was the only drug found. Legal drugs however, have been the cause of more than half a million deaths a year: 480,000 from tobacco smoking-related illnesses and 80,000 from alcohol abuse. Together, tobacco and alcohol cause about 20% of all yearly deaths in the USA. It is argued that inconsistency between the harm caused and the legal status of these common drugs undermines the declared motives of the law enforcement agencies to reduce harm by prohibition, for example of marijuana.
In February 2009 the UK government was accused by its most senior expert drugs adviser Professor David Nutt of making a political decisions with regard to drug classification, for example in rejecting the scientific advice to downgrade ecstasy from a class A drug. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) report on ecstasy, based on a 12-month study of 4,000 academic papers, concluded that it is nowhere near as dangerous as other class A drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine, and should be downgraded to class B. The advice was not followed. Jacqui Smith, then Home Secretary, was also widely criticised by the scientific community for bullying Professor David Nutt into apologising for his comments that, in the course of a normal year, more people died from falling off horses than died from taking ecstasy. Professor Nutt was later sacked by Jacqui Smith's successor as Home Secretary Alan Johnson; Johnson saying "It is important that the government's messages on drugs are clear and as an advisor you do nothing to undermine public understanding of them. I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as Chair of the ACMD."