The possession and use of heroin, ecstasy and crack cocaine should be decriminalised, a powerful group of MPs and peers say today. In a controversial finding, their report says giving criminal records to young drug users creates 'higher levels of unemployment, homelessness and relationship problems'. It also has little impact on drug use, according to the politicians, who include senior figures such as former Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson and ex-MI5 chief Baroness Manningham-Buller. The study also calls for licences to be issued to allow drug dealers to sell so-called 'legal highs', which have flooded on to the market in recent years.
If hard drugs are decriminalised users would escape with a fine, confiscation and no criminal record
Dealers would have to show that the substances carried only an 'agreed low risk of harm'. In return they would be given licences and regulated by council trading standards officers rather than the police. The call comes only days after a student in Newcastle was left fighting for his life after apparently taking an ecstasy-style drug ordered over the internet. Numerous reports and studies have raised concerns about drugs policy over the years. Last month the Commons home affairs committee called for a Royal Commission on drugs policy, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claimed the Government was 'losing the war on drugs on an industrial scale'. But in calling for the decriminalisation of virtually all drug use, today's report goes much further than previous official investigations into the issue.
Under existing laws users of drugs such as heroin, cocaine or ecstasy face a maximum sentence of seven years in jail, along with a criminal record, but the new report calls for a weakening of these regulations
Under existing laws, drug users caught with Class A drugs such as heroin, cocaine or ecstasy face a maximum sentence of seven years in jail, along with a criminal record. Decriminalising drug use would relegate it to the status of a minor driving offence. Taking drugs would remain illegal, but users would escape with a fine, confiscation and – crucially – no criminal record. The report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform will pile pressure on David Cameron to reverse his recent decision to rule out a major revision of drugs laws.
The report calls for licences to be issued to allow drug dealers to sell so-called 'legal highs' that have flooded the market in recent years
As well as Lord Lawson and Baroness Manningham-Buller, the cross-party group of MPs and peers contains other heavyweight figures such as former Labour Cabinet Minister Lord Richard and former Lib Dem president Lord Dholakia. The study says the Government's war on drugs is having little effect. 'Banning drug use does not materially affect the overall level of demand for drugs,' the report says. 'Drug policies which criminalise young people generate higher levels of unemployment, homelessness and relationship problems, and cost the taxpayer considerable sums.'
Britain's most senior drugs police officer told the committee that arresting drug users was often pointless
Chief Constable Tim Hollis, the lead drugs spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, also said there was 'little merit' in outlawing so-called legal highs because forces lack the resources to combat new drugs. The report describes the current system of drug classification as 'irrational', saying that 'relatively less harmful drugs' such as ecstasy and cannabis are 'inappropriately classified'. The MPs and peers say the supply of hard drugs should remain illegal. But they warn that by criminalising the use of drugs such as ecstasy, ministers are driving the development of a vast range of legal highs, some of which are potentially harmful. Most legal highs are man-made variations on existing drugs. By making tiny changes to the chemical formulas, the makers get round the law.
The report calls for legal highs agreed to carry a 'low risk of harm' to be classified as category D drugs, allowing them to be supplied legally under a tight regulatory regime. It argues that this would reduce harm as drug users would have better information about what they were taking. The study says that trading standards departments could take on the role of enforcement because they have 'a wealth of experience and powers to control dangerous or mis-described products sold in the high street or on line'. Responding to the report, drugs expert Kathy Gyngell from the Centre for Policy Studies said: 'Any decriminalisation or legalisation of drugs would make drug use go up, not down, which means a higher risk of deaths. 'We're not doing enough to prevent young people starting in the first place, so this is utterly negligent.'
Source: Daily Mail UK