Possessing small amount of drugs 'should not be crime'

A heroin user prepares a fix There are an estimated 380,000 "problem drug users" in the UK

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The penalties for drug misuse should be relaxed so that possession of small amounts would no longer be a criminal offence, the government has been urged.

The recommendation comes in a report from the UK Drug Policy Commission, which undertook six years of research.

Its detailed report concludes the UK is wasting much of the £3bn it spends each year on tackling illicit drugs.

The Home Office says drug use is falling and it does not plan to alter its approach.

The report, called A Fresh Approach to Drugs, says the annual estimated cost to England and Wales of class A drug use is £15bn.

It says that while drug use and drug problems have declined in the UK in recent years, there are still about 2,000 drug-related deaths each year and 380,000 problem drug users.

Classification credibility

Some 42,000 people in England and Wales are sentenced annually for drug possession offences and about 160,000 given cannabis warnings, it says, which "amounts to a lot of time and money for police, prosecution and courts".

The commission says giving people cautions and criminal records for having small quantities is not "proportionate" and suggests imposing civil penalties, such as fines, or drug treatment orders instead.

It also recommends individuals who grow a small number of cannabis plants should be treated leniently, to undermine organised crime networks that produce stronger types of cannabis.

However, it does not call for the decriminalisation or legalisation of most drugs.

"We do not believe that there is sufficient evidence at the moment to support the case for removing criminal penalties for the major production or supply offences of most drugs," it said.

It calls for a review of the Misuse of Drugs Act and drugs classification, which it says has "lost credibility" for many people.

It suggests technical decisions about the classification of individual drugs should be taken by an independent body, with parliamentary oversight.

The report says some key planks of government policy - including major drug seizures - have little or no impact, and some programmes in schools could even have increased the use of drugs.

It says there is "little evidence" that a recent increase in prison sentence lengths for drug production and supply has deterred dealers or affected availability.

It recommends that the main political parties should establish a cross-party forum to agree on how drug problems can be addressed "in a cost-effective and evidence-based way".

114 new drugs

Dame Ruth Runciman, the charity's chairman, said: "Over the last three decades, UK governments have done much to reduce the damage caused by drug problems.

"Needle exchanges have reduced HIV among injecting drug users to one of the lowest rates in the world. The investment in treatment for people addicted to drugs has also helped many to rebuild their lives.

"Those programmes are supported by evidence, but much of the rest of drug policy does not have an adequate evidence base.

"We spend billions of pounds every year without being sure of what difference much of it makes."

The commission also said a new approach was needed because the rapid creation of new drugs was changing the market too quickly for the traditional methods used to control it.

It says that, between 2009 and 2011, 114 new psychoactive drugs were identified in the European Union.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "While the government welcomes the UKDPC's contribution to the drugs debate, we remain confident that our ambitious approach to tackling drugs - outlined in our drugs strategy - is the right one.

"Drug usage is at it lowest level since records began. Drug treatment completions are increasing and individuals are now significantly better placed to achieve recovery and live their lives free from drugs.

"I want to take this opportunity to thank the UKDPC for its work in this area over the past six years."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    In post 77 I suggested a well designed and enforced licensing scheme.
    By "well designed" I meant all growing, processing and distribution must be done to lawful quality and purity standards and by licence-holders. That would get rid of problems like 'cutting' and criminal dealers.
    Enforcement meant, among other things, making penalties for the unlicensed much heavier than they are now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    121. I have far better things to do than 'research' why drug users waste their life away on pointless, expensive and dangerous drugs. Its not my life they are ruining. I do however have to pay taxes to clear up their mess, but that's what you get in civilised society. The good people supporting and clearing up after the bad. If the good people didn't have morals they would leave you all to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    The war on drugs is a waste of money and lives!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    @113 JustAThought1

    So you can't stop people funding drug gangs, but you refuse to take the action that could save lives and save your own tax money? You'd rather keep paying for a failed set of policies that directly costs lives?

    Again, this is why I despise you. You are happily funding actions which kill people, yet somehow you think your head-in-the-sand approach is morally clean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Exactly. If it was legal you could be assured it wasn't laced with dangerous substances, wasn't super strong and likely to give you brain damage, you would pay tax on it and the police would have more spare time. "Smoking Cannabis leads to harder drugs". It may do, but only because the drug dealer will try and sell you something harder!

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.


    Why is it morally wrong? What is it to you, if someone has a smoke now and again? You are ignorant because you are one of those who tarr the canabis user with the likes of Heroin addicts. Do your own research before you post

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    @ 90 Global Yawning

    I would be almost certain that a member of your family smokes cannabis, probably been stoned while sat having a cup of tea with you, and you knew nothing about it.
    Not all drugs are bad!!!!
    You obviously grew up in the same era as the golden oldies in Government who refuse to see that a better way of tackling this problem is required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I've been told by the police that they would rather have the troublemakers on pot than alcohol. I recently pointed out a group of kids openly smoking pot to a police officer on the beat. He walked towards them so slowly that I wondered if he was on the drug himself. Sadly they managed to meander away faster than him, so no arrest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    We have the worst of both worlds: we keep drugs illegal, but tolerate them (same for prostitution). We must go one way or the other: either legalise drugs, keep the money in the legit economy and disenfranchise criminals, or make them properly illegal with draconian punishments for minor offences, so the majority of people won't even risk it. Otherwise we're just playing (and paying) to criminals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    It all comes down to freedom of choice. The ruling elite are all for that, providing it creates a profit for their chums.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    I choose to smoke weed instead of going for a beer (for health and social reasons). That isn't going to change. Whether I get that tax-free from a dodgy criminal down a back alley late at night, or tax-paid and quality tested from the local convenience store on my way home from work; that's up to the government to decide.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    The user is sick - an addict. S/he likely needs detox.
    The pusher is the criminal.
    Make drug buying legal, make drug using legal: This is the way to draw users out of the ratholes. This is the way to eliminate the pusher. This is the way to supply clean needles & avoid aids.
    This is the way to take a snapshot of the real scene & know the real problem you are dealing with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    @104 Have you ever had an alcoholic drink? Have you ever had a caffinated beverage? I would be amazed if you have never "used" a drug in some way or other, although I'm sure that when you have done, you've done it responsibly. Whether a drug is legal or illegal is just a label that us humans have applied to a great number of substances. It's possible to be responsible with illegal drugs too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    107, It doesn't bother me if criminals are taking your money. I don't have anything to do with drugs, its your drug money they are using to commit further crimes and harm people. I can't stop it happening but my conscience is clear. The next time someone is killed over drugs, you may well have helped provide funds to buy the gun. Well done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    If we are to have a balanced debate on drug legalisation, we need to look abroad at systems that have both approaches. Western societies with an approach of criminalising drug takers perform worse than those who do not criminalise users.(UK, USA vs Portugal, Norway). In legal societies, the drugs are safer, users not stigmatized or socially sidelined, sellers shutdown, healthcare response impoved

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Doesn't this mean that whilst I'll not be able to drink alcohol in my local town centre I'll be able to snort drugs......

    (Not that I have the desire to do either)

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    You can say what you like, even with decriminalisation, drug use is morally wrong.

    Morally wrong to you perhaps.

    No one is forcing you to take drugs, just pointing out that a change in our attitudes could stop dangerous criminals from operating, reduce A+E need, increase tax take etc.

    Personally, I think you're immoral from thinking your one-man Nanny state opinions are more important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    legal highs exist because drugs are illegal,it speaks for itself.
    Physical addiction does NOT happen with all drugs!!!
    Drugs that cause physical addiction should be prescribed to users?
    Drugs which are not physicaly addictive should be decriminalised or made legal.

    Heroin,Coke and Crystal Meth are EVIL!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    @ 84.Dutchie101 If cannabis was legalised it would eradicate drug dealers. Dealers want drugs like cannabis to be illegal because they control the market. Look at the example of Amsterdam. Weed dealers do not exist, just like you don’t see alcohol dealers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    @104 JustAThought1

    So you straight out admit it - you have no objective reason for your stance, just a feeling that what someone else is doing for fun is wrong, and therefore it's your right to criminalise them.


    Not only are you embracing irrationality, you're shooting yourself in the foot by ensuring huge profits for criminals and the continuation of all the things you hate.


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