The problems associated with the global illicit drug trade are amongst the most challenging and intractable of all those facing policy-makers. The global drug prohibition system is widely acknowledged as a costly and counterproductive failure, not only presiding over a massive expansion of the problem over the last 50 years but also causing a range of damaging side-effects, notably fuelling organised crime. The need for new thinking has never been more evident. It is argued that current arguments for drug policy reform, whilst highly effective at critiquing prohibition, are nevertheless based on limited understanding of the nature of markets and regulation. This paper sets out an alternative constitutive conception of drug control, drawing on cross-disciplinary regulation scholarship, which not only provides a better basis for challenging prohibition but also a more fruitful framework for developing an alternative approach. It is suggested that the regulation perspective outlined in this paper represents a more effective analytical approach for exploring the challenges presented by global psychoactive commerce in the early twenty-first century.

Toby is Professor of Criminology in the School of Law. He joined the University of Manchester in 2006 and was previously a University Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. Before becoming an academic, he spent 10 years as a researcher in the voluntary sector, working in the areas of penal reform, criminal justice, drug policy and homelessness. He was educated at the University of Birmingham (LLB Law), University of Leicester (MA Criminology) and University of London (PhD Social Policy & Politics).
He took over as Head of School in August 2014, having previously been Director of Research from 2012-14. Within the School, he is a member of the Centre for Criminology & Criminal Justice (CCCJ) and a co-founder of ManReg, an innovative inter-disciplinary research network in the area of regulation and governance. He has published widely and is author of several books. His current research is focused on rethinking illicit drug policy through the lens of regulation.