‘One of the most important areas of social policy is still bound by legislation passed 50 years ago,’ Transform chief executive James Nicholls told an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
‘That’s a long time for any legislation to stay in place without amendment or reform. It’s not fit for purpose, and most obviously it’s failed dramatically to achieve its own aims.’
More than 50 MPs and peers have now signed a statement calling for urgent reform of the act, alongside health specialists, charities, bereaved family members and former police officers. For half a century the act has ‘failed to reduce drug consumption’, it says. ‘Instead it has increased harm, damaged public health and exacerbated social inequalities. Change cannot be delayed any longer. We need reform and new legislation to ensure that future drug policy protects human rights, promotes public health and ensures social justice.’ An early day motion has been tabled calling on the government to recognise that the system is not working and to adopt a science-led approach.
The UK’s drug-related death rate remains one of the highest in Europe, despite the annual £1.4bn cost of drug enforcement in England alone. According to data analysis by Transform, drug deaths in England and Wales have risen by more than 7,000 per cent since the act came into force, from 38 to 2,883, while heroin use has increased from less than 10,000 people to a quarter of a million.
‘The Misuse of Drugs Act has been a disaster,’ said Nicholls. ‘In the 50 years since it was introduced, we have seen both use and deaths rise dramatically. The UK now has the highest drug deaths in Europe, and the situation continues to get worse. The government’s recent review of drug markets sets out this failure in detail, and confirms that it cannot be resolved simply through more policing. We need to start a debate now to finally break the deadlock.’
Statement at transformdrugs.org/mda-at-50/parliamentary-support
See feature in the June issue of DDN