Time to stop criminalising drug users, says global commission

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A new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy has called for an end to the criminalisation of drug use and possession. Among the recommenda­tions in Taking control: pathways to drug policies that work are that health and community safety be prioritised by ‘a fundamental reorientation’ of policy and resources away from punitive approaches, and to ‘allow and encourage diverse experiments’ in legally regulating markets for drugs – ‘beginning with, but not limited to, cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances’.

The commission, members of which include the former presidents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Poland, Portugal and Switzerland, is ‘the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes’, it says. The report also wants to see ‘equitable access’ to opiate-based pain medication, an end to the imposition of compulsory treatment and alternatives to prison for ‘non-violent, low-level’ partici­pants in illegal drug markets, such as farmers or couriers.

‘It is time to change course,’ said former UN secretary general and convenor of the West Africa Commission on Drugs, Kofi Annan. ‘We need drug policies informed by evidence of what actually works, rather than policies that criminalise drug use while failing to provide access to effective prevention or treatment. This has led not only to overcrowded jails but also to severe health and social problems.’

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are to discuss ending the use of imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use at the their annual conference in Glasgow this month, along with moving the ‘drugs and alcohol policy lead from the Home Office to the Department of Health’.

The proposals are contained in the party’s ‘pre-manifesto’ document, which also states that they would establish a commission to look at the effectiveness of UK drug laws and alternative approaches, including ‘further work on diverting users into treatment or into civil penalties that do not attract a criminal record which can seriously affect their chances of employment’.

Taking control: pathways to drug policies that work at www.globalcommissionondrugs.org

Pre-manifesto 2014 at www.libdems.org.uk