The current legislative framework and strategy are ‘already delivering a balanced approach which combines a range of public health and criminal justice approaches’, the government has stated in its official response to the Home Affairs Committee’s report on drugs.
The committee’s report, published this summer, concluded that the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act was outdated and should be reformed to support ‘greater use of public health-based drug interventions’, and called for a new legislative framework to include drug testing at festivals and consumption room pilots. The government was unlikely to achieve its drug strategy aims without ‘significant expansion in the range and availability of health-based interventions’, it warned.
The cross-governmental Joint Combating Drugs Unit is already driving coordinated activity across health, criminal justice, education, employment and housing to support the drug strategy’s priorities, the government states in its response, adding that it does not accept the recommendation to reform of the Misuse of Drugs Act.
‘A balanced public health and law enforcement response to drugs is compatible with both the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001,’ it says. It also has no plans to review the classification and scheduling of drugs under the act, it states.
The Home Affairs Committee report also highlighted that the Home Office appeared ‘more likely’ to adopt the ACMD’s advice to increase the classification of a drug than reduce it, citing the examples of MDMA, cannabis, khat and, most recently, nitrous oxide.
While advice from the ACMD formed ‘an essential part’ of decision making and the government had ‘complete faith in its quality and rigour’, the government could however ‘decide to progress alternative action that it deems necessary, taking into account other relevant factors, and in some cases arriving at different conclusions’ the response states. The government would also not be issuing the ACMD’s unpublished 2016 report, it adds, and ‘respectfully declines to provide the committee with a confidential copy’.
On the question of the long-term sustainability and security of funding for treatment – also highlighted in a recent report from the National Audit Office – the government states that it is ‘not possible to commit to providing funding for any longer than the current spending review period’.