Tag Archives: drugs

It’s time we talked about legalising drugs

There is currently much noise around the (unsurprising) news that a senior politician, who was once a journalist, spending much time in a large city in the UK, has taken drugs during his life – we’re taking illicit drugs here, cocaine, in Mr Gove’s case.

Despite some moral outrage, there has been a surprising shift in the criticism. Much of the condemnation has been around the hypocrisy of a cabinet minister. A minister who is wedded to a policy which criminalises users of drugs, as opposed to the actual taking.

I’m going to concentrate here on the argument to legalise drugs. There is, of course, much debate to be had, so I’m happy for you to contact me for further debate, and do your own research too (TRANSFORM, The Loop, Volte Face and Anyone’s Child are great places to start). I argue for legalising, not decriminalising drugs. Whilst users could seek better support, “decrim” leaves the manufacture, trafficking and supply of the drugs in criminal hands – that doesn’t really move us on much.

So, we have two choices when it comes to legalising drugs.

  1. We leave things as they are.
  1. We legalise and regulate, via state control. This would:
  • Reduce the black market for the manufacture and trafficking of drugs, which also includes human trafficking, including sexual abuse and other horrific issues in what is referred to as “they supply chain”
  • Increase health support for people who require it (we also need to be honest that not everyone who uses is addicted or dependent) and reduce the needless deaths in our families, towns and cities
  • Increase education regarding support, but also safer usage. Also unlock research into currently illegal drugs; some initial research suggests some illicit drugs could be used, as a start, to tackle schizophrenia and various cancers
  • Make the supply subject to legal controls – you wouldn’t accept alcohol mixed with rat poison, so why should people have it in their cocaine? Also this means age controls, labelling and proper quality control
  • Reduce gang crime, violent knife and gun crimes, and seriously tackle the “county lines” issue. We can’t just ask the Police to endlessly run around after gangs who supply – a gang removed can be replaced by a new one in less than hour. Speaking to the Police in many places, they often can be found to privately support changing the law, because the “war on drugs” isn’t winning – LEAP UK is a great source of information. 
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“Apparently because of Brexit the supply of my tablets is low”

Yesterday, Brent Lib Dems’ chair Anton Georgiou got a text from his sister.

She has Epilepsy which is controlled by taking six tablets a day.

She had gone to the pharmacy to put in a prescription.

Here’s her text, reproduced with her’s and Anton’s permission:

This is the reality of what people are living with.

Problems with supply chains for medicines aren’t confined to Brexit and they are quite common. You can see some of the issues here on Epilepsy Action’s Drugwatch

Brexit, deal or not, puts added complications into the mix. This article cites problems coming from a weak pound against a strong Euro, so it is clear that Brexit is already having a detrimental impact.

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Brian Paddick’s tells of death of former boyfriend in heartbreaking and personal interview

Lib Dem peer and Home Affairs spokesperson has talked to Buzzfeed about the death of his former boyfriend from an accidental overdose of the drug GHB.

In an emotional and candid interview, he described how he and Michael had been in a relationship, which, after they split up, became a very close and enduring friendship.

In 2013, Brian received a call from Michael’s brother with the horrific news that Michael was on life support. He rushed to the Intensive Care Unit to say goodbye.

At the inquest into Michael’s death, the Coroner pointed out the key sign that he had been in …

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We should be sceptical of news, even when we agree

Some may have been surprised to read recently that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved three trials of MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder – the final phase of validation required to turn the “dance drug” into a legal medicine. Surprised, probably, because we have been repeatedly told for over two decades that MDMA is a very dangerous drug and that “there is no such thing as a ‘safe dose’”. Doctors would surely never give a dangerous drug with no safe dose to someone just to aid therapy, so what’s going on here?

It has been known since the 1970s that MDMA had some potential in psychotherapy, but almost all research and testing on the drug was halted when it was globally criminalised in the mid-1980s. But the story of how we got to a place where MDMA is “Class A” (the most dangerous drugs) is a sorry story of misleading experiments, politicised research, biased scientific endeavour, wilful distortion of facts, and – most importantly – the silence of the scientific and medical establishments in the face of obvious manipulation of the truth.

Nearly all research on MDMA since the 1980s has been funded by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) or its predecessors. Its very name – “drug abuse” – gives away the goal of the organisation, which is to provide the evidence backing for politicians to promote the “War on Drugs”. In that goal it has been hugely influential.

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Pre-testing Party Drugs: concrete steps avoid concrete pills

In the latest British edition of The Economist (July 30th) , there is a report about a useful initiative in the field of (il)legal highs and party drugs like XTC (as we Dutch spell ecstacy). It appears that there is a non-profit organization called The Loop, with a professor Fiona Measham, criminologist at Durham University, amongst its co-directors; she is their spokesperson in the article.

Medical Drugs for Pharmacy Health Shop of MedicineThey’re this year starting to travel around local summer music festivals, offering festival-goers to test their party drugs before they consume them. The result at the “Secret Garden Party” near Cambridge were sobering: stuff sold as “MDMA crystal” was ordinary brown sugar, and hard grey pills were actually made from concrete, the building material. And where XTC really was XTC, some pills were five times as potent as others being tested.

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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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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Give doctors the right to prescribe Cannabis for those in real pain

Nick Clegg’s Standard column this week tackled the issue of Cannabis prescription:

He tells some real-life stories of people whose lives have been transformed by being able to use Cannabis:

Faye, a corporate PA for a big company who was diagnosed four years ago with rheumatoid arthritis, is about as far away from the cliché of the layabout pothead as you can possibly imagine. An ambitious, outgoing and highly able young woman, the pain threatened to derail the career she had been building since the age of 16. She tried a number of prescription medicines but they came with a range of nasty side effects, from hair loss to constant nausea, that often left her too ill to work.

Four years later, her career is back on track. She makes her own cannabis-based skin cream that she can use at work, which has no psychoactive qualities and can easily be disguised so that no one knows she is using cannabis. To her colleagues, it looks like she simply keeps a small jar of normal hand cream on her desk. As a result, she told me that she can “live my life as I used to four years ago”. But she does so at great expense and at the risk of a criminal record. She is also forced to put herself into potentially difficult situations in order to obtain the cannabis she needs.

Nick makes the point that not one of these people wants to be criminals:

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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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Lord Brian Paddick writes…Standing up for evidence-based policy on drug laws

Yesterday in the House of Lords I called a vote to change the government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill. The Conservatives and Labour refused to support the change and we lost the vote 314 votes to 95, which was a great result. So how can such a crushing defeat be good? Because we established, on the record, that neither the Tories nor Labour support a scientific, evidence-based approach to reducing the harm caused by drugs. And here’s why.

The Tory government, supported by Labour, is pushing through a draconian, authoritarian law that would ban any substance that changes the way you think or the way you feel (your mental functioning or emotional state). There is no doubt some of the substances that the legislation covers are highly dangerous, but Lib Dems do not support a blanket ban that could do more harm than good. Things normally consumed as food and prescription medicines are not covered but tea, beer and cigarettes would all be banned except for the fact that caffeine, alcohol and nicotine (and only those three things) are specifically listed in the bill as being exempt.

The government has made it quite clear that they do not intend to add anything else to the list of exemptions and the law also prohibits anyone from removing ‘the establishment’s drugs of choice’ from the exempt list. So despite the wealth of scientific evidence that shows how much more dangerous alcohol is than, say, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), both in terms of the harm it causes to individuals and to society, the government intends to use this Bill to ban it.

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Greg Mulholland’s row with the Speaker – the obvious solution

Yesterday, Leeds MP Greg Mulholland tried to ask a question about the availability of a drug to treat a constituent’s rare disease – and was prevented from doing so by the Speaker for being “long-winded.”  ITV News has the story:

Speaker John Bercow had warned Mr Mulholland to be quick in his statement but after referring to missed decision dates given to families by health authorities, the Lib Dem was told to resume his seat.

Six-year-old Sam Brown from Otley. Sam, who has Morquio syndrome needs Vimazim treatment, mentioned by Mr Mulholland, but NHS England deferred a decision over whether to provide the drug, then last week announced it would wait for guidance from NICE, the health body consulting on the drug.

There is a video of the exchange on the ITV site and, to be honest, I’m quite annoyed with John Bercow. Greg was no more long-winded than many of the other questions that day – Hansard has the details so you can see for yourself. All Greg had said before he was interrupted was this:

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Brian Paddick upsets the Daily Mail over drugs policy. Oh what a shame.

Brian Paddick is not some hippy anarchist. He used to be the Assistant Commisioner of the Metropolitan Police for goodness’ sake. He knows, therefore, about what works in trying to tackle drug addiction. And it’s not the futile “war on drugs” which successive governments have insisted on waging. Prohibition just doesn’t work. All the evidence points to that. Drug users who need help should get it through the health service not the prison service.

Funnily enough, the Daily Mail doesn’t much like his plan to amend the government’s ridiculous law banning legal highs.

This afternoon, Brian moved his amendments to the Bill. Here’s his speech in full:

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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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