Author Archives: Henry Fisher

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments

The UK and the EU have a chance to stand up for drug policy reform

 

Nick Clegg made a big announcement on Thursday 1st October that has as yet gone unreported on LDV – he’s going on a jolly around Europe. Well no, not quite. He’s actually going on a tour of the EU to try to convince its leaders to stand together on the subject of international drug policy reform. Nothing like a challenge, eh Nick? But this is a serious issue, and at an absolutely crucial time. In April next year, the UN General Assembly will be holding a Special Session (UNGASS) to debate how to approach global drug policy over the next ten years and beyond, at a point where different parts of the world are diverging ever more rapidly on the issue of how to tackle the problems associated with drug use.

If the EU stands together united at UNGASS in calling for certain reforms to the UN conventions, and I sincerely hope Nick succeeds with his mission and it does, it has a much greater chance of making a positive impact. But what reforms can the EU agree to stand on? At one end countries like France and Sweden do not endorse any kind of change to their (relatively) strict drug laws, whereas countries like the Netherlands and Portugal have lead the way on liberal, evidence-based drug reforms for years. In the middle we have countries moving both ways too, with both Germany and Italy making noises about reforming their cannabis policies, Ireland voicing its support for drug decriminalisation and supervised injecting rooms and the the UK… well the less said about that the better. In fact, it has been noted that the EU can be seen as a near-perfect experiment for comparing the efficacy of a spectrum of subtly varied drug policies on relatively similar populations.

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On drugs, protests and direct action

 

On 1st August I attended my first ever protest outside the houses of Parliament. There was no kettling, shouting, or even any placards. Instead, there were balloons, balloons filled with nitrous oxide – laughing gas. This was the protest against the Psychoactive Substances Bill, organised by The Psychedelic Society to highlight the idiocy of the Bill, both in its principle and in its wording.

I could fill this entire post, and a few more, with criticisms of the Bill itself, from its illiberal premise, to its impact on medical research, to its utter unworkability, but I won’t.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments
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