Last year, the Lib Dems passed a near-unanimous Conference motion calling for a complete review of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. It included a call to “consider reform of the law, based on the Portuguese model”.
Today, the cross-Party Home Affairs Select Committee, of which I am a Member, has endorsed that position, and told the Government that they must focus on reducing the damage caused by drugs, rather than hard-line posturing.
I wrote about it in the Guardian this morning:
Despite 50 years of criminalisation, illicit drugs are now the third most valuable industry in the world, after food and oil. Presidents of supply countries, such as Colombia, are desperately calling for a rethink.
We’re stuck in a pointless “war on drugs”. It’s not working and it costs us heavily, in human terms – with people addicted, incarcerated and burgled – and in financial terms. The UK spends more on drug policy than any other country in Europe, but has the highest usage of several class A drugs.
Every person who uses drugs in Britain is treated in exactly the same way: as a criminal and a prisoner. Far too little effort and support is given to treatment; to helping people come off addictive drugs.
Ultimately, we are neither reducing harm, nor reducing demand. Thoughtless, ineffective and costly, drugs policy in this country and across the globe has been a complete shambles.
Today, the cross-party home affairs select committee publishes a report into drug policy. We have spent a year collecting and evaluating the evidence. Our findings are stark.
You can read the full piece here:
As Ewan Hoyle – founder of Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform and a driving force behind our new policy – argued this summer, our policy is not only right, it’s also increasingly popular.
While the Home Secretary, in typical fashion, dismissed the Committee’s specific call for a Royal Commission, Jeremy Browne made some positive noises about the evidence we gathered and the need for the Government to listen to our report and look at new ideas. He also committed to looking at the model in Portugal.
That’s far further than any other noises I’ve ever heard from the Home Office. And far further than the other two Parties are willing to go – either in or out of Government if you’ve seen the Labour Party response this morning!
Clearly, we will be judged by what it is we achieve. We have to keep the public pressure up, and ward off Tory and Labour calls to carry on with business as usual. Like with the Committee’s report, all it takes is a proper look at the evidence, and we can get a policy which works. I hope that with a push from our side in the Home Office, we can get a real change.
* Julian Huppert is Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge.