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 186.

    178. Jesco @176

    I smell a troll. Whats your name a reference to?

    Saddo....troll?? Someone you do not agree with. Krokodil was a soviet era satire magazine. That predates the drug by decades. Ok my uneducated plank?

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    @174 FatPeace

    Except that's not been shown to be true, the only study that showed a link between cannabis and psychosis was unable to say if it caused it or if people suffering from psychosis were drawn to smoke the stuff.

    And even if it were true, if we legalised and regulated we could make sure to sell a sensible strength.

    Next broken argument please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    @176 krokodil

    Says the one who drinks how many bottles of wine a week????
    Then takes the painkillers to relieve next days hangover..
    Not all drugs are bad!
    Which the experts who have actually researched the use and effects agree with.
    Just because alcohol is legal it doesnt make it any healthier for you.
    Have a spliff and tell me what makes you feel worse...

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    @176 Have you ever taken drugs? I'd assume not as you'd know that a bit of cannabis use is nothing to do with 'escaping reality'. A cannabis user will be typically a lot closer to reality than most people you would find wandering around the average city centre at midnight on a Friday, and a lot less of a menace to society. Some drugs are bad! Very bad, in fact! But cannabis is not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    167.oogyboogy - Professor Nutt would ban burgers, tax Coke (the liquid, not the powder) at 1000% but have hard drugs on open sale in newsagents. Never was a man's name more fitting. I'd rather my kids didn't feel the 'need' to experiment with ANY sort of mind-altering substance, and would rather see research into why so many people turn to drugs to deal with life in this lousy society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    Some of the decrease recently has been because of the rise of 'legal highs' as (potentially more dangerous) substitutes. No sooner is one banned than another is made available.
    Regarding claims drug use has come down, if drug use has declined where legalisation has occurred then you cannot attribute this to prohibition in this country.
    The question is whether we can afford the war on drugs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 180.

    Prohibition is never the answer as shown in the US. It breeds crime and prevents no one obtaining the things they want. Guns are more strictly policed than any drugs yet they are available on the black market if someone goes looking. Are we all children or adults capable of making their own informed decision. Government should be by the people for the people. Lets have a referendum!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    These new ideas make sense to me. The important thing is that cannabis remains illegal in any form and is confiscated and destroyed when it is found. Those that are making a profit from it should be punnished and those who are stupid enough to use it should be reminded why they shouldn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 178.


    I smell a troll. Whats your name a reference to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    The best way of understanding this is to look at the US Mafia before, during and after alcohol prohibition. Beforehand, they were dying out. Prohibition gave them a new lease of life. Nowadays drugs continues to fund the Mafia and worse. Prohibition just breeds criminals; legalise drugs and let natural selection and economics sort things out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Seriously, your a sad individual if you take drugs.

    Get a life. Rate me down, I am glad. Your the ones who fuel criminal gangs and you should feel ashamed about that. But you won't, your selfish need to escape reality takes priority.

    I would never ever want to see drugs accepted. There is no need.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    @ 171 Gareth

    Well blimin said!!!!!!!!!

    Couldnt have put it better myself

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    The Breakfast report on this claimed that 'fast food is worse than some drugs and the obese worse than drug users'. I would have a lot more time for the legalisers if they didn't keep trying to deflect attention in this manner. And too many ageing lefties base their views on cannabis on the weak stuff they smoked in Uni 40yrs ago not realising that today's turbocharged 'skunk' induces psychosis.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    Legalise and tax drugs and everyone is a winner.

    Legalalising drugs will make them safer, the police will be able to spend their time better chasing after real criminals. Also all crimes related to drug use will disappear. Taxing them will create additional revenue to spend on public servies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Some comments im seeing here really are the height of IGNORANCE, go EDUCATE yourselves about cannabis (thats if you all can put your drink down long enough) ALCOHOL makes you AGRESSIVE, do things you wouldnt normally do, DEHYDRATES your brain the next day and makes you ILL, cannabis RELAXES you and you wake up the next day feeling GREAT! This issue is never going to go away, WE NEED REGUALTION!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    I work Monday - Friday, pay my taxes, my mortgage, my bills, contribute to society.

    Despite all of this I am expected to listen to a bunch of idiots who can't even decide who's going to run a train line without wasting £40m.

    I'll carry on partying away on a Saturday night thanks all the same :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    “The war on drugs”, was lost a long time ago. You can’t use the law to prevent people poisoning their systems deliberately & all laws to prevent it do is create a lucrative untaxed and criminal run black-market, not to mention costing a fortune.

    So legalise, regulate, tax is the practical solution. However political momentum means that’s still at least 30 years away in my reckoning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    i would rather my kids used cannabis rather than take alcohol or tobacco, which are legal but much more harmful. can someone tell me the dangers of cannabis? ive used it for 25 years and am a healthy, balanced, intelligent, and otherwise law abiding citizen.
    but in the eyes of the law im a criminal because i like to relax with a harmless weed that harms no-one

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    The BBC should be highlighting this story

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    prof david nutt was fired from the acmd for having a similar view. this charity spent 6 years coming to this conclusion, and is made up from as diverse a bunch as a dame and former police chief.
    most politicians in power dont have the courage to say what they know is right until they are no longer at the coal face.


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