By Roland Sebestyén
Leading politicians back the calls for a drug policy reform in the UK after the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the infamous Misuse of Drugs Act (1971).
Organisers at the Transform Drug Policy Foundation were able to bring more than 60 MPs and peers to the table to speak out on drug policy failures over the last 50 years in the country.
The joining politicians all signed the following statement: “The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) is not fit for purpose. For 50 years, it has failed to reduce drug consumption. 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.”
Among the politicians who are backing the initiative are Labour’s Dawn Butler; leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey; Lord Hylton; Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb from the Green Party and the Conservative Party’s Dr Dan Poulter.
Dr James Nicholls from Transform Drug Policy Foundation told BusinessCann: “The Misuse of Drugs Act has been a disaster.
“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.”
The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) essentially categorises drugs to determine the level of control deemed necessary under the law.
Drugs that are included in the Act are specified in Schedule 2 of the legislation, which divides them into different classes – Class A, Class B, and Class C – which are “broadly based on their general harm“.
Despite being implemented as a means to deter the use of controlled and/or harmful drugs, the use of illegal drugs has actually skyrocketed over the last 50 years.
There is also significant evidence that the majority of drug legislation from this era was based upon racial discrimination and designed to criminalise people of colour in a ‘legitimate’ way.
In fact, in 2018-19, national figures showed that over one-fifth (21%) of all convictions following a stop and search were of black people, despite this group only accounting for 3% of the UK population.
Also, according to the data provided by the Ministry of Justice, black people faced 148.4 prosecutions for cannabis possession per 100,000 people, compared to 12.2 per 100,000 for their white counterparts.
Lord Brian Paddick, the former police chief and Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesperson in the House of Lords, called for policy reform to immediately end the extremely unfair proceedings.
He said: “The UK’s outdated drug laws are doing more harm than good. Cannabis is freely available and widely used, while criminal drug gangs are doing enormous damage to our communities and the lives of young people.
“Stopping, arresting and prosecuting thousands of people just for possession of cannabis for personal use is a waste of police and court time.
“Meanwhile, the vast majority of burglaries go unsolved, and even crimes that are prosecuted drag on for years before victims get justice because the courts are clogged up with minor drugs cases.
“To make matters worse, the disproportionate use of these laws undermines trust and confidence in the police among black communities. Young people are dying on our streets while the police are looking for a spliff.”