Most people assume that the drug laws we have in the UK are based purely on an assessment of the danger these substances pose to the individual and society. Unfortunately it is not so straightforward.

Drug laws have been influenced by many political, economic and social pressures and by some vested interests over the years. To give some background it might help to look at how policies have evolved over time. We have reprinted two articles by Alan Matthews about the origins of drugs laws and the contrasting approaches taken by Britain and the USA in the twentieth century.