We have set our our proposals for a tiered licensing system in a number of books and reports.
Five systems of control
Instead of blanket prohibition, we believe that drug supply should be regulated through a system of licensing based on an assessment of risk. This system would establish different levels of restriction - ranging from very lightly-regulated sale in shops to supply by prescription only.
This approach allows for nuanced, responsive and appropriate regulations to be applied; ensuring supply is safe, while preventing a market free-for-all. Each drug (including different preparations) would be regulated based on a detailed assessment of the risks it presents. We have identified five broad types of regulation through which currently illegal drugs could be supplied in future.
For products with very low risk (such as caffeine) sale would not require a licence. However, products would be subject to expected regulations around quality, labelling etc. This would be appropriate for very mild stimulants such as coca tea.
Licences for consumption on the premises
This is the system currently applied to alcohol sold in pubs and bars, where the product is consumed at the place of purchase. Local licensing authorities have the power to issue licences and apply conditions (such as requirements around hours of sale, server training and so forth). This is similar to the system used in Dutch 'coffee shops'.
Licences for consumption off the premises
This is the system used for alcohol 'off' licences and tobacco sales (in the UK retailers instead require an economic operators ID to sell tobacco). Under this system, retailers need to acquire a licence for sale from their local authority - again, with conditions attached (such as how products are displayed). This is similar to the system for cannabis retail in parts of the United States and Canada.
A key issue in licensing sales is whether retailers (and wholesalers) should be private companies or owned by the state. State-owned retail is not unusual: alcohol outlets in many parts of Canada, for example, are owned by the state.
For higher-risk products, we recommend that sale is limited to specialist pharmacy-style outlets, with well-trained staff and tight restrictions on availability, product display etc. This is the model we recommend for the sale of most stimulant drugs, such as powder cocaine and MDMA. In the case of stimulants, we also recommend that outlets are state-owned, as this is the best way to prevent excessive marketing and profit-driven sales.
The prescription-only model is the most tightly controlled drug supply model currently in operation. Under this model, drugs are prescribed to a named user by a qualified and licensed medical practitioner. They are dispensed by a licensed practitioner or pharmacist from a licensed pharmacy or other designated outlet.