It is time that the UK government finally admitted that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is a failure. It fails to prevent drug use, it fails to adequately distinguish between the relative harms of drugs and it fails to protect society from the negative consequences of the illegal drug trade.
The Act does not make sense from any scientific perspective. Ecstasy 'mdma' (class A) is not as dangerous as heroin or cocaine. In fact the science shows that ecstasy is a relatively benign drug, with very few deaths compared to most Class A drugs and even alcohol and tobacco. Statistically ecstasy is safer than horse riding. Pretending that it is deserving of Class A status sends out the wrong message and makes a mockery of attempts to control drug use in a meaningful way. This is just one example of how the Act fails to adequately classify drugs. There are many more.
Criminalizing drugs does not prevent or deter use. This is a fact. What it does do is criminalize people who would otherwise be perfectly law-abiding citizens. Those drug users who do currently steal to fund their habits do so because of the fact that drugs are illegal and therefore expensive. Criminalizing drugs actually generates more crime.
Criminalizing drugs makes drugs even less safe by pushing production underground and denying regulation. This is one of the most worrying aspects of the Act. Governments should take responsibility for ensuring that if people do take drugs, those drugs are made by proper companies and subject to regulation.
The Act also denies the treasury huge sums of potential tax reciepts. The money raised through tax can be used to fund the NHS. Benefitting even non users.
Criminalizing drugs is highly punitive. It may seem normal now for drugs to be illegal, but actually its quite a new phenomenon. Human beings have used recretional drugs for millenia. Putting people in cells as 'punishment' for drug use is illiberal, whatever arguments are given for doing so.
I am not suggesting that drug use should not be regulated. That would be a silly position to take. Drugs can be dangerous, they can turn lives upside down. Thats why we need to make sure that we have a sensible system of control in place that does not force users underground into the hands of criminals. The Netherlands is a good template for how a new system may take shape. Or we could look at alcohol and tobacco. These are drugs, and the are regulated.
This is a matter of civil liberties. It is about us realising that drug users do not belong in prison. They are ordinary people who should be treated as such. Allowing alcohol and tobacco, and then incarcerating somebody for another drug, is plain hypocrisy. It is wrong.
If we dont change the law….there is only one winner….organised crime.
I would suggest recategorizing drugs into 'hard' and 'soft' categories according to scientifically proven evidence. The Advisory Council should be given authority over this.
Soft drugs should be legalised and regulated for sale in licensed premises.
Hard drugs should be available on the NHS through a GP.
Why is this idea important?
This idea is important because drug laws are failing. People know that the Classification system is outdated and yet it guides our sentencing.
Young people need real, factual information on dangers and harms. The current law does not provide for this.
Criminalizing people for drug use is wrong. It is illiberal and does not address any problems that drugs can cause.
The law needs changing. Its needs to be more tolerant, liberal, evidence based and constructive. We have a golden opportunity here to seriously undermine organised criminals through the democratic restructuring of our drug laws.