A new e-petition has been set up on the gov.uk website calling for an impact assessment of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. The petition has one year to collect 100,000 signatures, and if successful will prompt a debate of the effectiveness of the primary piece of drug legislation in the UK.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s most senior doctor, has questioned the government’s policy of criminalising all people who take illegal drugs and said they should be treated primarily as if they have a “health problem”.
The British Medical Association, a professional association and registered trade union for doctors, has published a comprehensive report on drug policy in the UK making clear the role they feel medical practitioners should play, not only in improving care of problem drug users, but also in becoming involved in the political debate over drug policy
A panel of peers from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform today released a new report. It focuses on ‘legal highs’, but also makes a number of other recommendations including decriminalising personal drug use and introducing a ‘class D’ to the current classification system, to allow carefully controlled sale of those psychoactives considered to pose a relatively low risk of harm. It is the third major report in as many months to recommend sweeping changes to UK drug policy.
Director Amanda Feilding, is travelling to Guatemala for meetings with President Otto Pérez Molina, his Foreign Minister, and other senior figures in the Guatemalan government. She will be presenting our proposals for alternative drug policy options in Guatemala, which aim to reduce violence and corruption and allow resources currently devoted to tackling criminality to be re-allocated for health, education and development.
The new law will come into effect on January 1st, at which point those found in possession of drugs will either receive a fine, be sent for rehabilitation, or ordered to do community service. Previously, anyone convicted of drugs possession could be sentenced to up to 3 years in jail.
The overall conclusion of the report is that the Government needs to invest in an evidence-based and harm-reducing approach to drugs. Unfortunately the Home Office is set to ignore these recommendations, repeating the same claim that current drug policies are successful and backed up by all the best evidence – presumably not including the UKDPC report, the last Home Affairs Select Committee Report, and this Home Affairs Select Committee report (representing together almost 10 years of evidence gathering) which all call for a new approach.
The mainstream penalty-driven approach to drugs control is both morally and intellectually flawed. Morally, it ignores the use and, in some cases, promotion of drugs such as alcohol and tobacco that are much more harmful than most “illicit” drugs. Intellectually, it ignores the reasons people choose to take drugs, and why they value them. One of the most important motivations for taking drugs, which cannot easily be acknowledged by the authorities, is personal pleasure.