Tag Archives: drugs policy

Reforming Drug Policy Shouldn’t Just Be About Cannabis

drugsWe are the party at the forefront of drug reform policy. There are and have been smaller, single-issue parties that have been campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis for years, but we are the only major party to bring the debate on to the political mainstage.

There are different arguments for the cases of decriminalisation or legalisation – though the two main arguments are almost always centred round healthcare. The first is: with decriminalisation, we can treat addiction like an illness instead of a crime – a noble idea, …

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What next for Lib Dem drug policy?

Wow, what a month March was for Liberal Democrat drug policy. First, the Lib Dem-commissioned independent panel report on cannabis regulation was published, advocating a framework for a fully legal regulated market for cannabis. Secondly, Norman Lamb proposed a motion to adopt the framework of the panel report as official party policy, which was subsequently voted in near-unanimously at conference. Finally, Norman presented a 10 Minute Rule Bill to the Commons, presenting our newly adopted policy to the rest of the House with an impassioned speech. The motion was voted through without contest and will now receive its second hearing later this month, on April 22nd. Progress indeed, although sadly it is deeply unlikely that the Bill will get past its second hearing.

However, before we congratulate ourselves too much having the most progressive drug policy of any UK party, we must ask ourselves what next? Where do we go from here? To know this, we must look at our existing policies, at what declarations we may have forgotten, and what new evidence can be brought to bear in shaping a truly liberal, evidence-based drug policy.

Ewan Hoyle, a long-time activist for drug policy reform within our party, alluded to this at conference, where he reminded the audience of the wider aims of our drug policy. In particular, he pointed out that much of the harm associated with drug use is often related to harder drugs, and it is these harms that it is essential we mitigate with intelligent policy interventions.

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Drug reform should be our new flagship policy

In my past two articles I argued for a more muscular liberalism that was more strident in championing liberal causes and for occupying the liberal ground whilst still appealing to a broader audience than ourselves.

In the interests of achieving this aim we need to pick our fights and causes carefully. We need a new flagship policy, one which wipes away the memory of tuition fees and sets us apart from our opponents. We must lead the charge on an issue and make it our own in a way we never quite managed in the public perception of equal marriage and green energy in coalition.

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LibLink Special: Nick Clegg’s El Pais article: “We are losing the war on drugs”

Earlier this month, Nick Clegg wrote for Spanish newspaper El Pais about the need to totally change the way we deal with drug use. Liberal Youth Scotland co-president Hannah Bettsworth, a final year Spanish student, has kindly translated it for us.

On 19th April next year, United Nations member states will hold a special session in New York to discuss the future of the world’s drugs policy. The starting pistol for government negotiations around the summit was fired last week, in a meeting at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna.

The last time an event of this importance was held, in 1998, the meeting was dominated by US Government strategy, which still consisted of the doomed ‘war on drugs’, thought up by Richard Nixon in 1971. (awkward sentence in English) The gathered member states, in a move we can today see as a false collective delusion, solemnly agreed to reach the goal of “a drug-free world in 2008.”

Of course, 2008 came around and nothing happened. Not only had production, supply and use of illicit drugs not been wiped from the Earth, trafficking continued to flourish and bring millions of dollars to organised crime. The well-intentioned efforts of law and order had had hardly any impact in the long term. Violence in origin and transit countries had skyrocketed (in Mexico alone, it is calculated that 100,000 people have died in the war on the cartels since 2006.) Around the world, millions of drug users are still hounded and incarcerated. This serves only to ruin lives – it has no deterrent effect.

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Norman Lamb: ‘It is ridiculous that we still put people in prison for personal drugs use’

Norman Lamb spoke last night in Newbury at a panel discussion on drugs misuse and our current drug laws.

Norman said that he has thought through the “drugs danger” and whether it should receive a criminal response or a health response. He said he has concluded that there should be a health response. He alluded to John Stuart Mill’s ‘self-regarding acts’, where the state shouldn’t interfere and ‘other-regarding acts’ where some state intervention may be justified. He said that it is wrong to criminalise those suffering mental ill health who resort to drugs because of their condition. It is “ridiculous”, Norman asserted, that we still put people in prison for personal drugs use.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg and Richard Branson: We have been losing the war on drugs for four decades. End it now.

Nick Clegg Glasgow 2014 by Liberal DemocratsIn a major keynote speech today, Nick Clegg will call for responsibility for drugs to be moved from the criminal justice system to the health care system. In that, he has the support of Richard Branson and the two men have written for the Guardian’s Comment is Free section. First of all, they show how the current system is both wasting money and failing:

 Since the “war” was declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, we have spent over £1tn trying to eradicate drugs from our societies. Yet the criminal market continues to grow, driving unimaginable levels of profit for organised crime. We devote vast police, criminal justice and military resources to the problem, including the incarceration of people on a historically unprecedented scale.

In many parts of the world, drug violence has become endemic. As Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, visits the UK, we should remember the estimated 100,000 people killed in Mexico alone since 2006. Yet tragically, the sum total of enforcement efforts against drug supply over the past 40 years has been zero. Efforts at reducing demand have been similarly fruitless. Here in the UK, a third of adults have taken illegal drugs and the gangs are doing a roaring trade. The problem simply isn’t going away.

While other countries around the world are rethinking their approach, Britain remains stubbornly, truculently wedded to the old way, with tragic human consequences:

And yet we desperately need better solutions in this country. One in six children aged 11 to 15 is still taking drugs; 2,000 people die each year in drug-related incidents; the use of unregulated “legal highs” is rampant.

At the same time, the police are stopping and searching half a million people a year for possession of drugs, prosecutions of users are close to record levels, and prison cells are still used for people whose only crime is the possession of a substance to which they are addicted. This costs a lot of money, which could be better spent on treatment and on redoubling our efforts to disrupt supply. And it wrecks the lives of 70,000 people a year who receive a criminal record for possession and then find themselves unable to get a job.

As an investment, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns. If it were a business, it would have been shut down a long time ago. This is not what success looks like.

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What Theresa May didn’t want you to see: Norman Baker reveals all on drugs report

Norman Baker has revealed that the report into effective ways of tackling drugs policy commissioned by Liberal Democrats in Governemnt had some of its conclusions removed by Theresa May, presumably for fear of upsetting the Daily Mail.

From the Guardian:

He said that drugs policy should be based “on evidence, not dogma” and that, although the Conservatives were opposed to liberalisation, they were losing the argument on the issue.

Under pressure from the Lib Dems, the Home Office commissioned a report looking at the international evidence on the impact of legislation on drug use. Theresa May, the home secretary, made no secret of the fact that she had no enthusiasm for the project, and when it was published in October, with Baker taking the lead in publicising it, Conservative ministers signalled that they would ignore it.

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