Decriminalise drugs- cross party group of Lords call
The possession and use of all illegal drugs should be decriminalised a cross party group of Lords has said.The least harmful should be regulated and sold in licensed shops, with labels detailing risks, the group concluded.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform (APPG) said criminal sanctions did not combat drug addiction, and only marginalised users.
The APPG – comprising two Conservatives, two Labour peers, one Liberal Democrat and four crossbenchers – took evidence from 31 experts and organisations, including the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.
While the supply of the most dangerous substances should remain banned, users caught with a small quantity of any drug should not be penalised, it said.
“The Misuse of Drugs Act is counter-productive in attempting to reduce drug addiction and other drug harms to young people,” said group chairwoman Baroness Meacher.
Citing “legal highs” available as substitutes for ecstasy, she said: “If those much safer drugs were provided – say, in a chemist, very carefully labelled – at least you’d know what was in it.
“At the moment 60 million ecstasy tablets are sold every year to young people, all through criminal gangs and the illegal dealers.
“What we’re saying is if young people are going to buy these things, is it not better that they know exactly what is in them? They will not be contaminated because they will be provided through legal channels. And the young people will in fact be relatively safe.”
In support of decriminalising the use of all drugs, the report made reference to the model in Portugal, where there has been a fall in the number of young addicts under a form of decriminalisation.
The group said: “Some young people will always want to experiment and they are at real risk if they can only buy the less harmful drugs from the same dealers who are trying to push the most harmful ones.
“The illegal dealers also have a clear incentive to adulterate their product to increase their profits.”
The chief executive of the charity DrugScope, Martin Barnes, said: “Today’s report adds yet further weight and support for a review of drug legislation and the Misuse of Drugs Act.
“DrugScope supports the recent call by the Home Affairs Committee for a Royal Commission – which has the potential to secure cross-party support – to look at options for reform, including decriminalisation.
“While there is positive evidence of an overall decline in drug use, the drug market and related harms is changing, not least the emergence of so-called ‘legal highs’. The emphasis should be on public health, prevention and education but it is also right to question whether current legal frameworks and approaches to enforcement are effective in addressing drug use and harms.”
Tags: Conservatives, drugs classification, healthcare, NHS waste, preventable crisis, Risk of Drugs