Tag Archives: drugs

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 …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | 10 Comments

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 …

Posted in Op-eds | 19 Comments

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 …

Posted in Op-eds | 31 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 7 Comments

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.


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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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