Latest Public Sector News

10.12.12

MPs say it is ‘now or never’ for drugs reform

The influential Home Affairs Select Committee wants the Government to back some decriminalisation of drug possession, where people found with small amounts of drugs are not always prosecuted.

The committee’s new report says “this is a critical, now-or-never moment for serious reform”, and urges a new Royal Commission into drugs policy.

The committee stopped short of supporting a relaxation of legal sanctions for drug use, as suggested by experts at the UK Drug Policy Commission in October.

The Home Office and Department of Health should take joint responsibility for drugs policy, and the Coalition should fund detailed studies of new systems in Washington and Colorado in the United States, where cannabis is being legalised, the committee suggested.

The report’s recommendations echo many of the findings of the committee’s last major inquiry into drugs in 2002 – when David Cameron, elected to Parliament the year before, sat on the committee – which called for a less punitive approach to cannabis and ecstasy.

The new report “regrets” the Government’s decision in 2008 to toughen the law on cannabis possession but only on the chairman's casting vote, after the issue split the committee.

The committee’s chairman, Keith Vaz MP, said: “We need to take the hysteria out of looking at drugs policy and look at two very important facts.

“First and foremost the victims – those who are the victims of those who deal in drugs and those who use drugs. And secondly the criminality of those in the system.

“We need to be pretty tough on those who go to prison and acquire the habit of using drugs in prison. We need to make sure we cut down on re-offending but we also need to look at other systems and monitor them carefully.

“After a year scrutinising UK drugs policy, it is clear to us that many aspects of it are simply not working and it needs to be fully reviewed.

“We cannot afford to kick this issue into the long grass. We have recommended that a Royal Commission be set up with an end-date of 2015.”

But a Home Office spokesperson said: “A Royal Commission on drugs is simply not necessary. Our cross-government approach is working.

“Drug usage is at its lowest level since records began and people going into treatment today are far more likely to free themselves from dependency than ever before.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at; opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Comments

Plain Speaking   10/12/2012 at 13:43

You cannot legalise something that harms people!. Rather than prosecuting the victims/users; i.e. criminalising those on whom drugs are found, the penalty should be referral to detox clinics. Also setting up a nationwide drug users register and those on it should be referred for detox sessions and their progress monitored by their local GP. As for drug peddlars, the sentence should be punitive and given there is no death penalty, the sentence should include financial penalties/bankruptcy.

Steve   10/12/2012 at 14:19

90% of drug users do so with no ongoing effects on their health or society: it’s the involvement of organised crime and the justice system which causes the most harm. Harm to the person is otherwise very little to do with what is and is not banned in this country: tobacco is the obvious example, but think alcohol, cars, extreme sports, fatty food, DIY… in a free society, it’s when one’s actions harm other people that really matters. Drugs clearly sometimes do that: but, arguably, the current laws do even more harm.

Al   14/12/2012 at 08:57

The only common-sense approach to dealing with drugs is for the Government to actually take control. Not simply to legalise, but to regulate and tax drug sales in the UK. When the supply is Government controlled then users will know that what they are taking is safe, eliminating any dangers from dodgy supply from criminal elements. The legalisation and controlled supply also will go a long way to remove the blackmarket or organised crime dealing from the UK. When drugs are available legally and the supply will be of safer and superior stock there would be no need or demand for criminals to supply inferior stock cheaply. In addition the legalising of drugs would also mean an extra source of income from the tax to the UK Government, and setting up the industry could create new employment opportunities. Both of which would be welcome in our current situation, surely? Just a thought, but it seems to me it would eliminate a number of long term problems within the UK, and settle a debate in Government at the same time.

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