Tag Archives: drugs

Opinion: If we remove prison as an option for drugs possession, savings must go to boost probation service

Wormwood Scrubs prison - Some rights reserved by TheGooglyAs a magistrate in North London, I welcome the recent Liberal Democrat proposal to remove prison as a sentencing option for drug possession. I have seen so many defendants who are in and out of prison, never breaking the depressing cycle of re-offending. However to keep drug addicts out of prison we will need to make sure that the alternatives work.

Currently it is very rare that first time offenders accused of drug possession would be sent to prison With first time offenders, the …

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The Sun: “Nick Clegg makes a powerful case for reform of our drugs laws”

The Lib Dem website says this: “Nick Clegg has announced that the Liberal Democrat manifesto will include a commitment to end imprisonment for possessing drugs for personal use, so that no one is sent to prison, where their only offence is one of possession. Under the proposals, users would instead receive non-custodial sentences and appropriate medical treatment.”

That’s not so surprising. The Lib Dems have long argued for a more rational approach to our drugs laws, with Nick making the point before that “If you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform.”

More surprising is that The Sun newspaper says this:

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Call Clegg 26 June: Tories can talk all they like about snoopers’ charter, it won’t happen as long as I’m in government

call clegg Clegg started in robust mood this morning, vowing that Theresa May will not get her way on increased surveillance powers while he’s in Government. He’s done well to stand firm against this for more than two years now. It’s certainly true that he had to be persuaded into this robust stance initially, but it’s to his credit that he listened to the points made to his office by a group of angry bloggers in April 2012 and has held firm ever since.

There seemed to be a clear theme throughout the half hour of Liberal Democrats standing up for people in the face of abuse of power by both state and private companies. Abuse of zero hours contracts is to end thanks to Liberal Democrats and the exorbitant interest rates charged by payday lenders is to be capped, among a whole raft of regulations brought in by Liberal Democrat minister Jo Swinson.

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Drugs and e-cigarettes: criminalise, legalise, regulate? Here’s what Lib Dem members think…

drugsLib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Two-thirds of Lib Dems back legalisation of ‘soft’ drugs…

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LibLink: Tim Farron: European Parliament makes it easier for you to know what’s in the medicines you are taking

European Parliament chamber, StrasbourgRoughly a third of people take part in the European elections. That turnout reflects that people don’t necessarily feel engaged with the European Parliament. Yet this body, whether it be on e-cigarettes, abolishing (with Liberal Democrat support) mobile phone roaming charges or even the medicines your doctor prescribes, makes laws that affect our daily lives. Tim Farron has been highlighting its important work in this medical field in an article over at the Huffington Post.

First of all, he outlines the problem:

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Nick Clegg: “If you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform”

clegg drugs observerThe message may not be new – Nick Clegg first declared that “If you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform” back in December 2012 – but that’s no reason not to welcome the Lib Dem leader’s re-statement that urgent reform of the UK’s drugs laws is needed.

It’s the splash in today’s Observer, which reports:

In some of the most outspoken comments on the issue by a serving British politician, Clegg laments the current situation in which “one in five young people have admitted taking drugs in the

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Opinion: Devil in disguise, new drug, same old lies

There’s another new drug in town, and the System is being cranked up to counter its insidious spread. This drug is increasingly popular among the young, who consider it exotic and often try it when abroad. It’s called “The Devil in Disguise” in government propaganda, because of its supposedly devastating health effects – just one session of this drug is equivalent to smoking 100-200 cigarettes, so say the “experts”, and it can even harm nearby children.

What is it? Well, it’s the shisha water pipe (“hookah”), with tobacco. There is growing anti-shisha propaganda around, which I don’t have a problem with …

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Opinion: Being tough on drugs means being pro-reform

The Sunday Times is claiming to have knowledge of the results of Jeremy Browne’s drug policy “grand tour”. In an article today, Put that in your pipe, Mrs May, the paper describes many conclusions expected to feature in the final report which will bring great cheer to the ordinary Liberal Democrat member:

“A review ordered by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, and due to be published before Christmas, is expected to suggest Britain could benefit from emulating two American states where the use of recreational cannabis is legal. The Home Office report is also expected to call for

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Opinion: Decriminalising drugs

drugsThe 2011 Liberal Democrat conference passed a motion calling for all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs to be scrapped, the introduction of a regulated market in cannabis, and the expansion of heroin maintenance clinics for the most fervent users.

The UK Drugs Policy Commission (UKDPC), published its final report in 2012. According to UKDPC, the cost of implementing current policy on illicit drugs is at least £3bn a year, but a lack of evidence for what works and provides value for money, and politicians’ unwillingness to act on available …

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Nick Clegg’s ‘Letter from the Leader': “no use standing up for civil liberties in opposition if you forget all about them in power”

Nick was spoiled for choice this week on which liberal touchstone issues to focus on in his latest weekly missive… Whether to talk about torpedoing of the Draft Data Communications Bill or perhaps his pro-reform/anti-drugs stance following this week’s Home Affairs select committee report — in fact he talks about both, even linking them to his pro-Leveson position. Manna from heaven to Lib Dem activists. The only surprise is that this week’s equal marriage proposals aren’t mentioned…

Do you want the Home Secretary to be able to

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Opinion: Prohibition 3 or how I learned to stop worrying and love failure

I am a non-smoker, apart from the odd birthday cigar. After initial misgivings about the details of the public building smoking ban in the UK, I have come to see it as the most significant and beneficial health change in human behaviour in many decades. It has transformed our public places for the better and helped thousands to give up.

Despite that, I have always been suspicious of the increasingly fanatical political drive against smoking. It has always had an undercurrent reminiscent of the 19th century Temperance movement that gave rise to the disaster of “Prohibition” of alcohol.

There can’t be a …

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Opinion: Changing demand without changing supply puts prostitutes at risk

It is with some concern that I read of proposals to criminalise paying for sex in Scotland.

Prostitution is a catch-all term that describes arrangements that should make the state very concerned indeed – trafficking of children for brutal sexual exploitation for example. There are also arrangements that the state has no business interfering in – the work of a self-employed, financially comfortable escort making very good money to supplement another income in an environment over which he or she has control.

Changing demand by criminalising the purchase of sex will have a number of unintended and undesirable consequences.

Firstly, we should consider …

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Alcohol minimum pricing should be this government’s first bold evidence-based drug policy

One of the most common arguments I read against the government control and regulation of the currently illegal drug markets is that we have so many problems with alcohol. Were cannabis for instance to be “legalised”, authors presume its use will increase and create new social problems to rival those that alcohol inflicts.The simple counter-argument employed by myself and other drug policy reformers is that alcohol is a very poorly regulated drug. Were any of the other currently illegal drugs to become regulated by the state, the alcohol model is one model it would be extremely unwise to replicate. Alcohol …

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Conference gets its wish – drug policy review announced

Liberal Democrats are always looking for distinctive ways to show that the party is making a difference in government – things we can proudly point to and say “look, we made this happen.” This week’s announcement that the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee is to launch a new inquiry into drugs policy is one that activists, MPs and Peers alike can rightly point to as an example of the positive influence Lib Dems have on public policy.

There is now widespread recognition that the UK’s drugs laws are ineffective and expensive, with MPs of all parties signing …

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LibDem Conference passes drugs motion

From a party press release:

Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference passed Protecting Individuals and Communities from Drug Harms, which calls for an independent panel to review current drug laws.

Commenting, Co-Chair of the Home Affairs Parliamentary Party Committee, Tom Brake MP said:

“Drugs can have a devastating impact on individuals and families and can fuel organised crime. Evidence shows that our current drug policy is costly, ineffective and it is the poor and marginalised who suffer most.

“Today, Liberal Democrats reaffirmed our support for an evidenced based drugs policy, calling for an independent panel to review current drug laws.

“We want to ensure the Government …

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Liberal Democrats Conference round-up and preview: Sunday/Monday

What happened on Sunday in Birmingham at Liberal Democrat conference and what to watch out for today, Monday:

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Opinion: Our flawed drug laws are at heart of riots

David Davis MP, in his appearance on the Question Time “riots special” said: “There are estates in Alan Simpson’s constituency where there are youngsters the age of 12 or 13 who got £30 a day paid for delivering drugs on whose estate the man to look up to was the drug dealers”

Brian Paddick: “Exactly”

Davis “because he had a big car and he lived well. And if we create circumstances like that it’ll be no surprise we get the problems we’ve had in London and the Midlands and the North in the last week.”

This is a fairly astute recognition of …

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Decriminalising drug possession: an idea whose time has come?

Drug reform has long been the third rail of British politics. Nine years ago, a newly-elected Tory MP was able to write in The Guardian from the safety of backbench obscurity: ‘I am an instinctive libertarian who abhors state prohibitions and tends to be sceptical of most government action, whether targeted against drug use or anything else.’ It’s hard to imagine David Cameron daring to repeat those words now he occupies Number 10.

Yet the Lib Dems are preparing to move the debate centre-stage by recommending at this year’s autumn federal conference the setting up of an independent inquiry into …

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PMQs: Since when is the NHS a “micro” issue?

A bit of a surprise at Prime MInister’s Questions. I expected Ed Miliband to ask about public sector pensions and the strike tomorrow. It was a bit odd when he asked about the NHS. Cameron later said that Miliband couldn’t fire off questions on the strikes subject “because he is in the pocket of the unions.” He also rather cheaply accused Miliband of fighting shy of Greece “because his plan is to make Britain like Greece.”

Then, Cameron reach his climax with a line which must have been honed over much midnight oil in Downing Street:

He has to talk about

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Opinion: the lone maverick won’t change drugs policy. An army of moderates might.

As a passionate advocate of drugs policy reform, I was very excited on Wednesday evening about the prospect of a former drugs and defence minister coming out in favour of regulated drug supply. I thought someone with such experience could blow the debate wide open, and we could really start getting to grips with the issue as a nation. Sadly the debate that resulted was again loose and ill-defined. Was he talking about legalisation of all drugs, decriminalisation, prescription of heroin to addicts? Because the debate was poorly defined, it was allowed to spin out into sensationalism and I quickly got the sense that this wasn’t going to be the breakthrough I had hoped.

I have therefore come to the conclusion that drug policy reform is not going to happen soon if we are going to continue this trickling pattern of lone mavericks each proclaiming different varieties of the sensible, progressive message. What we need instead is for all these mavericks to get together with respected stakeholders and work to produce ONE message, one set of policies which can be held up as the first step. Reformers need to engage with other lobby groups outwith the major political parties whose activities aren’t closely monitored by the Daily Mail for any sign of intelligent (and therefore reprehensible) thought. We need to engage children’s charities and talk through how best reform can tackle issues of child neglect and abuse. We need to talk to police associations about how best to reduce serious organised crime and petty thefts. We should talk to retailers about the potential to massively reduce shoplifting. We should invite the teacher’s unions in to talk about how we close off criminal career opportunities for disadvantaged children and help them engage in education as their best means of advancement. Mental health charities can make vital inputs into breaking the links between depression and addiction or between cannabis and psychosis. The list of sensible influential groups who can contribute to the development of and subsequently support a single message of moderate reform could go on and on.

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Opinion: Why we need an impact assessment of drugs policy

Yesterday, Labour MP and former minister, Bob Ainsworth came out strongly against drugs prohibition. He proposed an “Impact Assessment of the Misuse of Drugs Act”, an “independent, evidence-based review, exploring all policy options” which was welcomed by Lib Dem MP Tom Brake. This is precisely one of the things that the Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform (LDDPR) are calling for and I’d therefore like to give an overview of why an impact assessment is needed and is something that all can support.



1. One has never been done despite strong reasons for concern
Back in 1971, there were no ‘impact …

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Opinion: my Guardian drugs surprise

Cannabis stance is wrong, says Lib Dem drug campaigner

This was the surprising headline that greeted me on the guardian website just a few short hours after I’d made my maiden speech to conference.

I wasn’t planning to give a speech from the conference floor when I arrived in Liverpool. Having seen the latest motion I had drafted on drugs policy again be rejected by the Federal Conference Committee, I was instead concentrating on encouraging as many people as possible (without being too pushy) to attend the fringe event “It’s Time We Talked About Drug Policy” at which I was …

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Opinion: that Liberal Democrats for Drug Policy Reform poll

A poll conducted by LDDPR last month got some positive exposure last week with a mention in Antonia Senior’s opinion piece in thursday’s Times “Over to you: Tell me why drugs must stay illegal.” It was also referred to at greater length in Mark Easton’s excellent blogpost “Drugs Policy: The British System” the day before.

I feel it is important for the results of this poll to be explored further as some of the implications are profoundly important for the progress of the debate on drugs policy in this country and beyond.

Almost all polls conducted prior to …

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Opinion: drugs policy

Saturday was World Drug Day, a day intended to serve as a reminder of the need to combat the problems illicit drugs pose to society. The problems are numerous, deadly serious, and close to overwhelming to many states around the globe but the current prohibitionist approach mandated by the UN drug conventions has failed to make any significant impact upon the profits of the criminal cartels, demand for their products, and the terrible consequences of the trade for communities in the UK and beyond.

The UK currently spends around £19 billion on the criminal justice system due to the criminalisation of …

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Harris and Huhne question legality of Labour’s ‘meow meow’ ban

With just a fortnight until the Government’s mephedrone ban comes into effect, Lib Dem MPs Chris Huhne and Evan Harris have challenged the legality of the move (though the party has supported the ban itself). Today’s Guardian reports:

Dr Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said the six resignations from the government’s advisory council on the misuse of drugs had left it inquorate and legally unable to issue formal advice to the home secretary. He also questioned how a decision to ban mephedrone without first publishing the council’s report on its potential harms complied with

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Conservative policy making informed by TV detective series

Today’s FT has an interview with wannabe Chancellor George Osborne, where he once again fails to give any real details of the Conservatives’ economic plans, should they win the next election. Osborne talks about his admiration for Sweden, although he is unable to put his finger on exactly why, saying:

“I’m no expert on Swedish society but I am a regular viewer now of Wallander”.

What next: Chris Grayling telling the Daily Mail that he is changing the Conservatives’ policies on drugs after catching up with a few episodes of Van der Valk?

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High on drugs, yet soft on drivers?

Just before Christmas, the Government published two media releases on the subject of crime and sentencing. The first concerned making several ‘legal highs’ illegal; the second announced a review of the maximum sentences for dangerous driving.

What grabbed my attention was the current similarity of sentences for very different crimes. Currently the maximum sentence for dangerous driving is just two years – the same as for possession of amphetamines and less than half the maximum sentence for possession of cannabis or the previously legal high known as ‘spice’. So in the government’s mind, having a small spliff in your pocket is more than twice as bad as putting a child in a wheelchair by knowingly driving a car with defective brakes or by driving on the wrong side of the road at speed.

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Crack cocaine fines cheaper than a parking ticket

Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne has uncovered the figures through a Parliamentary Question:

In 2007, the last year for which figures are available, the average fine for criminals convicted of possessing crack cocaine was £38.33 – less than a standard £60 parking fine or speeding ticket, and less than a quarter of the average fine in 1997, which was £180. Over the same ten year period, fines for possession of heroin have more than halved, to just £65.83.

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Argentina, Mexico liberalise drug laws

In Mexico:

The Mexican government has enacted a law decriminalising the possession of small amounts of drugs, including cocaine and heroin.

Mexican prosecutors say the move does not amount to legalisation.

They say it is designed to prevent corrupt police from seeking bribes from small-time drug users, and to encourage addicts to seek treatment. (BBC)

In Argentina:

Argentina’s Supreme Court on Tuesday decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, tossing out tough provincial drug laws whose penalties it deemed unconstitutional.

The high court ruling protects “the privacy of adults who are responsible for their own conduct,” according to a court statement.

It

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Evan sticks up for drug adviser in ecstasy row

As the Guardian reports:

The government’s drugs adviser last night apologised for saying that the risk in taking ecstasy was no worse than in riding a horse. Home secretary Jacqui Smith had yesterday carpeted Dr David Nutt over comments that emerged 48 hours before his committee was expected to recommend downgrading the drug. …

Smith’s attack on Nutt, the new chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, comes when this week it will publish a report expected to recommend downgrading ecstasy from class A to class B. Smith has made clear she will veto the council’s view as

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