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  1. source
    A six-year study of Britain's drug laws by leading scientists, police officers, academics and experts has concluded it is time to introduce decriminalisation.

    The report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), an independent advisory body, says possession of small amounts of controlled drugs should no longer be a criminal offence and concludes the move will not lead to a significant increase in use.

    The experts say the criminal sanctions imposed on the 42,000 people sentenced each year for possession of all drugs – and the 160,000 given cannabis warnings – should be replaced with simple civil penalties such as a fine, attendance at a drug awareness session or a referral to a drug treatment programme.

    They also say that imposing minimal or no sanctions on those growing cannabis for personal use could go some way to undermining the burgeoning illicit cannabis factories controlled by organised crime.

    But their report rejects any more radical move to legalisation, saying that allowing the legal sale of drugs such as heroin or cocaine could cause more damage than the existing drugs trade.

    The commission is chaired by Dame Ruth Runciman with a membership that includes the former head of the British Medical Research Council, Prof Colin Blakemore, and the former chief inspector of constabulary, David Blakey.

    The report says their analysis of the evidence shows that existing drugs policies struggle to make an impact and, in some cases, may make the problem worse.

    The work of the commission is the first major independent report on drugs policy since the influential Police Foundation report 12 years ago called for an end to the jailing of those possessing cannabis.

    The UKDPC's membership also includes Prof John Strang, head of the National Addictions Centre, Prof Alan Maynard, a specialist in health economics, and Lady Ilora Finlay, a past president of the Royal Society of Medicine.

    The report says that although levels of illicit drug use in Britain have declined in recent years, they are still much higher than in many other countries. The UK has 2,000 drug-related deaths each year and more than 380,000 problem drug users.

    The 173-page report concludes: "Taking drugs does not always cause problems, but this is rarely acknowledged by policymakers. In fact most users do not experience significant problems, and there is some evidence that drug use can have benefits in some circumstances."

    The commission's radical critique says the current UK approach is simplistic in seeing all drug use as problematic, fails to recognise that entrenched drug problems are linked to inequality and social exclusion, and that separating drugs from alcohol and tobacco use makes it more difficult to tackle the full range of an individual's substance use.

    It says the £3bn a year spent tackling illegal drugs is not based on any evidence of what works, with much of the money wasted on policies that are not cost-effective.

    It argues that even large-scale seizures by the police often have little or no sustained impact on the supply of drugs; that Just Say No campaigns in schools sometimes actually lead to more young people using drugs; and that pushing some users to become abstinent too quickly can lead to a greater chance of relapse or overdose and death.

    The commission argues a fresh approach based on the available evidence should be tested. Its main proposals include:

    • Changing drug laws so that possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use would be a civil rather than criminal offence. This would start with cannabis and, if an evaluation showed no substantial negative impacts, move on to other drugs. The experience of Portugal and the Czech Republic shows that drug use would not increase and resources can be directed to treating addiction and tackling organised crime.

    • Reviewing sentencing practice so that those caught growing below a specified low volume of cannabis plants faced no, or only minimal, sanctions. But the production and supply of most drugs should remain illegal.

    • Reviewing the level of penalties applied against those involved in production and supply, as there is little evidence to show that the clear upward drift in the length of prison sentences in recent years has proved a deterrent or had any long-term impact on drug supply in Britain.

    • Reviewing the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act so that technical decisions about the classification of individual drugs are no longer taken by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) or politicians but instead by an independent body with parliamentary oversight.

    • Setting up a cross-party forum including the three main political party leaders to forge the political consensus needed to push through such a radical change in approach.

    Blakemore said: "Medicine has moved past the age when we treated disease on the basis of hunches and received wisdom. The overwhelming consensus now is that it is unethical, inefficient and dangerous to use untested and unvalidated methods of treatment and prevention. It is time that policy on illicit drug use starts taking evidence seriously as well."

    Blakey, who is also a former president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said the current approach of police taking action against people using drugs was expensive and did not appear to bring much benefit. "When other countries have reduced sanctions for low-level drug users, they have found it possible to keep a lid on drug use while helping people with drug problems to get into treatment," the former chief constable said. "But at the same time, we need to continue to bear down on those producing and supplying illicit drugs. This is particularly important for those spreading misery in local communities."

    Runciman said government programmes had done much to reduce the damage caused by the drug problem over the past 30 years, with needle exchanges reducing HIV among injecting drug users and treatment programmes which had helped many to rebuild their lives. The commission's chair said: "Those programmes are supported by evidence, but much of the rest of drug policy does not have an adequate evidence base. We spend billions of pounds every year without being sure of what difference much of it makes."

    The home secretary, Theresa May, last month ruled out any moves towards decriminalisation, saying it would lead to further problems.

    She told MPs she considered cannabis a gateway drug: "People can die as a result of taking drugs, and significant mental health problems can arise as a result of taking drugs."

    Alan Travis, home affairs editor
    The Guardian, Monday 15 October 2012


  1. Twizal
    Thank you very much ,Home Secretary! I simply love the way a commission collects the data,major bodies dealing with the issue on the front line put forward persuasive info and then It gets rejected out of hand using a tired old argument....it leads to hard drugs! Couldn't she come up with a better one?

    Shame it would be a step in the right direction. Add the cost of the commission to the " drug debt." At least it's being talked about at a higher level than usual.
  2. source
    Party drugs are now embedded in youth culture

    A few letters to the Guardian on the above:

    Party drugs are now embedded in youth culture

    "I write as the father of a young man who has struggled with heroin, and, from speaking openly with him and his friends, I can vouch that the report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (Decriminalise drug use, say experts after six-year study, 15 October) accurately reflects the reality among our youngsters. The tragedy is that our legislators have no idea what is going on and show no inclination to inform themselves.

    My wife and I are a professional couple who brought up two children in a loving and caring way, but were no more able to prevent their enticement into the use of recreational drugs at school than we were able to stop them experimenting with cigarettes and alcohol, neither of which is any less harmful or addictive than ecstasy, cannabis or benzodiazepines.

    These drugs have become part of the culture of current and future generations of young adults, and they use them because "Frankly, Dad, it's bloody good fun". Our son was highly productive, vigorous and unaffected by the occasional use of non-addictive party drugs. His mistake was to experiment with heroin. It nearly ended his life, but with courage and support he managed to detoxify himself and rejoin society with energy and optimism, still using the party drugs.

    The report clearly distinguishes between party drugs and hard drugs, and this distinction is embedded in the common culture: the use of hard drugs is frowned upon, but because of the sordid way youngsters have to procure the softer ones, they are constantly faced with temptation. We must learn to accept widespread use of the less dangerous chemicals just as we accept moderate use of alcohol, while still reviling drugs like cocaine and the opiates. Emphasising the difference by decriminalising the "safer" drugs is far preferable to perpetuating a situation that is self-evidently bankrupt."

    Name and address supplied

    • In this age of austerity, when every penny of public spending must be justified, it is astonishing that the government seems content to squander £3bn a year on its flawed drugs policy. The UK Drug Policy Commission is one of a number of respected organisations, including the Global Commission on Drug Policy, to call for a rethink. There is growing agreement across the scientific, police and legal professions that we need to move away from prohibition of personal use towards an evidence-based, public health approach.

    There are also signs of a shift in public opinion. In a YouGov poll for the Sun, six out of 10 people said they would back trials in which users escape prosecution, but get better medical treatment. More than half wanted all drugs policy options to be reviewed, while more people said they believe crime levels will fall if cannabis use is decriminalised.

    Politicians need to recognise that the war on drugs has failed. The government should review the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, with a full cost-benefit analysis and impact assessment to compare its effectiveness in reducing the societal, economic and health costs of drug misuse with alternative approaches.

    We need a drugs policy based on evidence about what reduces harms, rather than one driven by moral judgments. Only then can we hope to improve the treatment of addiction, prevent drug-related crime and protect communities from the worst effects of drug misuse.

    Caroline Lucas MP
    Green, Brighton Pavilion; member of the all-party group for drug policy reform

    • Illegal status adds to the dangers of drug taking. Instead of buying a joint from a safe outlet, where the toxicity can be monitored, a person who wants to smoke cannabis has to take to the streets and buy it from a dealer, who suggests he or she instead tries ecstasy, crack cocaine, or heroin. Purity of cocaine in the UK has fallen steeply as suppliers cut the drugs with other substances. And several people in the UK have died from a single dose of bacterially infected heroin. Regulation could control the process and greatly reduce the dangers of impure drugs.

    Then there is the bloody chain back to the original supplier. Countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia and Jamaica have had their economies destabilised by the illegal market while bribery, corruption and conflict have ruled.

    In the UK we have cut off huge swaths of the population, branding them criminals and creating an underclass who no longer feel part of our society. A sensible policy of regulation and control would reduce burglary, cut gun crime, clear out our overflowing prisons, and raise billions in tax revenues. Drug users could buy from places where they could be sure the drugs had not been cut with dangerous, cost-saving chemicals. There would be clear information about the risks involved and guidance on how to seek treatment. It is time to allow adults the freedom to make decisions about the harmful substances they consume.

    Dr Kailash Chand
    Stalybridge, Cheshire

    • Overall prevalence of drug misuse may not be increased by the proposed decriminalisation of drug possession, but what about the effect on particular vulnerable groups? Will consumption rise in children, and disadvantaged children be particularly affected by the drug use of those around them? What about those suffering from mental disorders? Such people already suffer more than averagely from the malign effects of tobacco and alcohol, and the same seems likely with other substances. The commission should look at the effects across a range of social groups before making such an "evidence-based" recommendation.

    Dr Ben Lucas
    Consultant psychiatrist, London

    • The UK Drug Policy Commission should have gone the whole hog and suggested putting heroin on prescription, as it was until the late 60s. This would give addicts clean, uncut heroin; decriminalise possession; enable users to stabilise their habits; save vast amounts of NHS and prison expenditure; and put the pushers and drug barons out of business. But governments have never been any good at an evidence-based approach in the face of Daily Mail fury.

    Fr Julian Dunn
    Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

  3. Twizal
    One of the main reasons I joined DF was because I was so impressed at the excellent articles and comments they attracted. Source you are great at this ,and thanks for the follow up letters. This is the way to get change and you can pride yourself as being right up there leading the way..making people think. It's not preaching to the converted either ,it's having a spin off effect.
    I've got three children and being a nurse it's easier to be open and honest about the body ,in all ways especially drugs and sex. They often see me typing and ask questions at 13and15 I give them articles you have posted and ask for their view. Last term my daughter befriended a new kid who was having major problems. She suspected he was using something ( btw,when I say befriended ,it was just that as she has a boyfriend. ) over time he told her everything ,he was smoking cigs,drinking, had been glue sniffing a few times and then started using weed and hit the jackpot with mums Oxys ! At 15. My daughter asked me to come with them to speak to the school councillor as she had organised a meeting.
    Now he's doing great and Mum is getting help too. The saddest thing to come out of this was a comment I overheard about the family.."all bloody filthy junkies in that house. Can't understand why (me) allows that kid near her daughter ....she'll be next."
    I'll deal with those comments when I've had a while to decide how to respond.! Otherwise I'll run the risk of arrest .!
    Sorry for burbling on ,I just wanted to show you that your efforts are not simply interesting they are impacting in a brilliant way. Thanks Source.
  4. source
    Thanks Twizal, appreciate that! Glad that my articles inform and help in some way, I only post what I read and think others will appreciate. To be honest, being able to research and post any up to date article helps me with staying off opiates. Okay not completely but it gives me that extra little thing to do to try and keep busy and keep my mind away from making a call etc.

    I too have had people discriminate lately. My late father's girlfriend cannot forgive or forget what I put my father through when he was terminally ill and has called me all sorts of names. I'm also holding back on my reply until I have a much clearer head.

    Still, yes, rambling along off topic.... but thanks :thumbsup:
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