By Phillip Smith
The use of drugs should be decriminalized, with the least harmful substances regulated and sold in shops, a group of British parliamentarians said in a report released over the weekend. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy reform made its findings in the report Toward a Safer Drug Policy: Challenges and Opportunities Arising from 'Legal Highs'.
The report said that the 40-year-old Misuse of Drugs Act needs fundamental reform because it criminalizes young people for drug use, leaving them with reduced life prospects, while creating profits for illegal drug dealers. Instead, "low risk" drugs should be handled like cigarettes, with legal sales and warning labels, while higher risk drugs should be decriminalized, the peers found.
"The Misuse of Drugs Act is counterproductive in attempting to reduce drug addiction and other drug harms to young people," said group chair Baroness Meacher.
The group took submissions from 31 experts and organizations, including the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and the Association of Chief Police Officers. It called for the classification of drugs to be removed from the realm of politics and instead be based on scientific evidence.
This is the third report in recent months to call for fundamental changes in British drug policy and a move away from a prohibitionist approach to a public health one. The UK Drug Policy Commission released its Final Reportin October 2012. The Home Affairs Select Committee published the findings of its Inquiry into Drugs in December 2012. All three reports make a strong case for changing British drug policy to better reduce harms posed by drugs to our population, and to take a greater consideration of evidence in doing so.
There is little sign Prime Minister Cameron is listening. Still, Cameron's ally in the governing coalition, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been paying heed, saying he could support drug decriminalization, and that is causing tensions over drug policy at Whitehall.